The fight over reopening two Burger King restaurants is back on after Minneapolis officials canceled permits for their drive-throughs.
In a letter last month, city zoning officials told the operators of locations at 818 W. Broadway Av. and 3342 S. Nicollet Av. that they had lost the right to run drive-throughs after the properties sat unused for too long. Burger King is expected to challenge that decision, and a hearing could occur as early as next month.
Minneapolis' elected leaders have passed multiple measures in recent years that prohibit the creation of new drive-throughs, saying they contribute to noise and traffic and make sidewalks dangerous for pedestrians. Those rules include a provision that allows the operation of drive-throughs constructed before the new restrictions passed. But the locations can forfeit those rights if they stop running.
Both Burger King locations shut down in April 2018, after the franchisee, P3 Foods LLC, filed for bankruptcy. Their parking lots and counters sat empty while Burger King worked to find a new owner. Representatives for Burger King argued that the company had not willfully abandoned the properties and that the bankruptcy case had prohibited them from opening sooner.
In February 2020, the city's elected leaders granted them an exception, clearing the way for the drive-throughs to reopen. That hasn't happened yet.
Burger King issued a statement saying only that it "is continuing to work with the local community and officials to resolve concerns over these locations" and had no further updates.
Sarah McKenzie, a spokeswoman for the city of Minneapolis, said the city canceled the permits last month because it "went by the letter of the code, which presumes that a use unused for over a year is deemed abandoned."
To Lyndale resident Adam Wysopal, who lives near the Nicollet location, the decision felt overdue. Wysopal has twice sued the city in hopes that it would more strictly enforce the drive-through bans for Burger King and other restaurants that aren't currently operating.
"Initially, it was just emotional," said Wysopal, who was frustrated with the state of the property, which is graffitied and surrounded by a metal fence.
Wysopal learned through emails obtained in a records request that some council members who had refused to meet with him were talking to a lobbyist for the chain. He worried that Burger King had an outsized influence at City Hall and that the city wasn't following through on mandates it had passed.
"To me, this is really important because I care about zoning changes in Minneapolis," said Wysopal, who supports the 2040 Plan and broader efforts to combat climate change. "I don't think drive-throughs are a good use in cities, so I would love to see this be redeveloped."