One of the most annoying things about local governments in the Tri-Counties is the widespread phenomenon I call “drive-thru phobia.”
In one high-profile battle, Goleta famously nixed a drive-thru for McDonalds after granting it permission in plans for the Camino Real shopping center. What always griped me about that little political switcheroo was that somehow, some way, rival In-N-Out got a rare drive-thru permit at a location that’s within five miles of the contested Goleta locale.
However you will note that it is conveniently located not in Santa Barbara or Goleta but in the unincorporated county area known as “Noleta.” When it comes to drive-thru phobia “politics, politics, politics” will always trump “location, location, location.”
Which brings me to Camarillo and a looming fight over Chick-fil-A’s bid to fight off a drive-thru phobia attack and build a location at the latest expansion of the wildly successful Camarillo Premium Outlets.
You might observe that one of the largest and busiest In-N-Out locations in the region is located literally a stone’s throw from the entrance to the outlets. Also true is the fact that when it was torn down and replaced with an even bigger In-N-Out a few years ago, nobody said “boo” about its burgeoning and always-crowded drive through.
You might also observe that as a matter of company policy, Georgia-based Chick-fil-A is not open on Sunday, a rare note of corporate sanity in a profit-driven world. This is also a fact that should mitigate the impact of drive-thru traffic on the other six days — including one of the biggest days of the week for shopping at the Outlets.
You might also be interested to know that while the outlet center is supporting a drive-thru for Chick-fil-A, it is willing to put in writing that it wants no more drive-thru for its new restaurant pad area. Does any of this help, Chick-fil-A? Apparently not.
The city’s planning department rejected by a vote of 3-2 Chick-fil-A’s application to put a restaurant on the site — after the chain met 184 out of 186 conditions imposed by planners and provisionally met the 185th by offering only to load trucks when the outlet was closed. The sole remaining issue, according to Gary Cushing, who is working on the project for Chick-fil-A, is the drive-thru.
You can probably tell by now that I’m a big fan of Chick-fil-A. Next to In-N-Out it is my favorite fast food; I love the company’s over-the-top advertising and I respect its traditional family values.
My favorite food book, “Eat This, Not That” rates Chick-fil-A among the healthiest of the fast food chains and if you split a chicken sandwich with your wife, which I often do, you save money and reduce your carb intake by half.
Why do we spend so much time and drive the cost of business so high over simple issues such as a drive-thru? The conventional wisdom has been that debates over drive-thrus and environmental impacts make our communities richer architecturally and provide a better balance with the environment. But the cost in terms of dollars and displace energy is also enormously high. And in my book, what’s good for In-N-Out ought to be fine for Chick-fil-A.
A vote on the restaurant before the full Camarillo City Council is scheduled for Nov. 2 and I’ll be watching it closely. After all, I’ve got some skin in this game.
• Contact Editor Henry Dubroff at [email protected]