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California city may declare Chick-fil-A a 'public nuisance' over drive-thru lines

A city report found that the drive-thru line could block a lane of traffic for up to 91 minutes on weekdays and up to 155 minutes on weekends.
Credit: AP
FILE - This July 19, 2012, file photo, shows a Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant in Atlanta. Chick-fil-A is gifting $500,000 to a leadership development program at Morris Brown College, an historically Black college in Atlanta, the school announced Monday, May 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Fans of crispy chicken sandwiches and waffle fries know all too well that waiting in the Chick-fil-A drive-thru requires a little patience.

The popular fast-food restaurant that's closed on Sundays often has a line of cars wrapped around the building and down the street, sometimes causing traffic delays on surrounding roads.

The issue has apparently gotten so bad in one California city that it's considering dubbing the restaurant a "public nuisance."

A report conducted by the City of Santa Barbara found that traffic caused by the Chick-fil-A drive-thru line routinely blocks sidewalks, disabled parking spots and adjacent businesses and increases the risk of collisions and injuries. In fact, the report found that the line could block one lane of traffic for up to 91 minutes on weekdays and up to 155 minutes on weekends.

City leaders have also pointed out that the road where the fast-food restaurant operates was never designed to accommodate that kind of traffic. 

“State Street is one of the city’s most important streets for moving people and goods,” Derrick Bailey, a city transportation engineer, told the Santa Barbara News-Press. “It was never intended to operate with significant blockage.”

If the city does declare the Chick-fil-A a "public nuisance," it can direct the restaurant to shut down drive-thru services. But for now, the Chick-fil-A employees were granted additional time to work on the problem.

City councilmembers have agreed to continue the public hearing on the matter on June 7, CBS News reports.

Even with the additional time, some councilmembers believe there aren't any changes that will remedy the situation.

“This is not about the goodness of the company or the goodness of the owners and certainly not about the goodness of the employees,” Councilmember Kristen Sneddon said, according to the Santa Barbara News-Press. “Chick-fil-A has a good problem here. They are so successful, they have outgrown their site. It’s possible they were oversized for that site to begin with.”  

Still, the restaurant owner says he believes the restaurant can figure out a way to keep the drive-thru up and running.

“On behalf of myself, Chick-fil-A and the many team members, we sincerely regret that this traffic situation has come to this point and heartily wish to work in good faith with the city to resolve this matter once and for all,” Travis Collins, the owner and operator of the restaurant, told the newspaper. “We believe we do have solutions, several of them.”

As The Los Angeles Times reports, another solution may already be in the works. Chick-fil-A is reportedly in the early stages of applying for a permit to open a new location about two miles away.

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