Chick-fil-A planning Tacoma restaurant

kathleen.cooper@thenewstribune.comJuly 18, 2013 

business chick-fil-a tacoma

Chick-fil-A's website shows what one of its drive-thru restaurants looks like.

COURTESY OF THE CHICK-FIL-A WEBSITE

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Chick-fil-A plans to open a location in Tacoma, but it wants the city to make some exceptions to its development rules so it can have a drive-thru.

Documents made public Wednesday show the company wants to build near the Tacoma Mall. Plans for any other stores in Washington aren’t yet public, though one seems to be planned for the city of Lynnwood.

Company officials wouldn’t comment further Wednesday, other than to say it was premature to discuss things in Tacoma and that the state was a growth market. The closest stores to Tacoma are in Idaho. The company, based in Georgia, has none in Oregon or Montana.

In Tacoma, the company wants to build a 4,567-square-foot restaurant at 3902 Steele St., which is now a parking lot near the Ashley Furniture store near the Tacoma Mall. The restaurant will include a play area and provide seating for 111 people. The plans don’t list a timeline for construction.

In late June, the company’s project manager applied to the city for some variances in its development rules. That application was formally made public Wednesday in a 17-page document on the city’s website.

The parking lot that Chick-fil-A proposes to build on is often used by customers of the old Borders store during the Christmas shopping season. It’s small, just about 28,000 square feet. About 7,000 square feet of that are behind a massive retaining wall — necessary because the site is on a slope. Right now, the “ground level” of the site is higher than the sidewalk.

The company’s most significant request is for an exception related to drive-thrus. City rules require drive-thrus in commercial mixed-use districts to be along the side or at the back of the building. The idea is to keep cars from standing in between a commercial building and a person on the sidewalk.

Chick-fil-A, in its variance request, said city staff has said it “would not entertain any new or modified driveways” onto the site. Since the only entrance now is off Steele Street to the north of the site, the company proposes the restaurant essentially face sideways from the perspective of a person standing on the sidewalk in front of it. The drive-thru then would wrap around the building, counter-clockwise, with the food delivery window facing Steele Street.

The company proposes architectural and landscaping features to keep the drive-thru from being visible from the sidewalk.

If the building is laid out this way, it puts it in violation of other development rules: More than half of its facade will be set back from the street more than 20 feet; the facade facing the public street won’t have windows; and the primary customer entrance won’t be directly accessible from the street and will be father than 20 feet from the street.

A nearby Wendy’s restaurant has a drive-thru with a similar configuration, although the building is set back farther from the street.

The company calls the drive-thru a “core corporate competency and essential element of the national brand.” In its application to the city, it says “it is our difficulty with meeting this standard that gives rise to the other conflicts.”

The city will accept public comments on the company’s request for variances until Aug. 2.

Chick-fil-A is privately held and family-owned. It is second only to KFC in fast-food chicken service. Dan Cathy, the company’s president and COO, made news last year for his remarks opposing gay marriage. The company, which operated primarily in the southern United States for many years before expanding nationally, has long been identified with conservative Christian philosophy. For years, the most visible sign of that for most customers was that its locations are closed on Sundays.

Kathleen Cooper: 253-597-8546 kathleen.cooper@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/business Twitter: @KCooperTNT

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