Minneapolis officials served Burger King a whopper of their own this week, rejecting applications to reopen two of its locations because of a citywide ban on new drive-through businesses.
The fast-food restaurants — one in north and the other in south Minneapolis — were two of several Twin Cities franchises that shuttered in April 2018 after the franchise owners, P3 Foods LLC, went bankrupt. Their parking lots and counters sat empty as Burger King worked to find a new owner and waited for P3 Foods to remove its equipment from the restaurants.
The company applied to reopen the locations last month. However, the city’s planners said that because the restaurants were closed for more than a year, they would not be able to reopen in their original condition.
One of the restaurants, at 3342 S. Nicollet Av., first opened its drive-through window in 1964. The other, at 818 W. Broadway, opened its window in 1993.
Since then, the Minneapolis City Council has cracked down on drive-throughs, saying that they contribute to car noise, idling and traffic, and that they make sidewalks dangerous for pedestrians. The city passed laws prohibiting new drive-throughs in the districts where the restaurants stood, and the ban was expanded citywide this year. It also banned the construction of new fast-food restaurants in those districts.
In Minneapolis, buildings that are deemed abandoned for more than a year cannot be reopened under nonconforming uses. The two restaurants, therefore, could not reopen with drive-throughs, senior city planner Andrew Frenz said.
Burger King’s representatives sought to rebut the city’s claim that the locations were abandoned, arguing that it was beyond the company’s control. Yet the city concluded that the company did not provide “clear and compelling evidence” of such, said Matt Perry, chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
On Thursday, the zoning board unanimously rejected their rebuttal, denying their applications to reopen.
Burger King can appeal the decision to the City Council within the next few days, Perry said. Company representatives did not respond to requests for comment Friday.
Minneapolis is believed to be the first U.S. city of its size to ban drive-throughs, according to city planners.
Several neighbors of the Nicollet location asked the city to reject the restaurant’s application. They wrote that the location was littered with trash and that cars going through the drive-through brought air and noise pollution. They hoped something else could be developed in its place, such as a coffee shop or mixed-use building.
But the future of both sites is unclear. Burger King’s leases on the Nicollet and Broadway properties end in 2034 and 2040, respectively.