scorecardA city in California might ban its Chick-fil-A store's drive-thru because of its long lines
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A city in California might ban its Chick-fil-A store's drive-thru because of its long lines

Grace Dean,Mary Meisenzahl   

A city in California might ban its Chick-fil-A store's drive-thru because of its long lines
Retail3 min read
  • Santa Barbara, California officials are targeting the city's Chick-fil-A location for long drive-thru lines.
  • A city official said the drive-thru caused traffic back-ups and increased the risk of collisions.

Officials in Santa Barbara, California are considering declaring the city's only Chick-fil-A restaurant a "public nuisance" and banning its drive-thru due to the huge lines that snake around the block.

The lines caused a "chronic adverse" impact on traffic, staff at the city's Community Development Department, Streets Operations & Infrastructure Management Division, and Public Works Department said in a March 1 report.

The city said in the report that it had received "numerous public comments" about auto collisions and cyclist safety concerns since the restaurant opened on State Street in 2013.

"Staff recommends Council declare that a public nuisance exists at 3707 State Street and direct abatement of the nuisance by cessation of use of the drivethrough facility," the city said in the report.

Derrick Bailey, the city's principal transportation engineer wrote in a report in January that the drive-thru was causing persistent back-ups of traffic on the street.

Bailey said that lines at the drive-thru blocked one of State Street's eastbound traffic lanes for an average of 70 minutes a day on weekdays, rising to 92 minutes on Saturdays. The lines increased the risk of collisions, forced buses to change lanes to bypass the queue, and blocked the sidewalk, bike lanes, and disabled parking spots, he said.

The queues also blocked access to neighboring businesses, like a pizza parlor's driveway which was blocked on average 15 times a day, he said.

"People do not have to die because of a traffic accident before you declare it a public nuisance," Dan Hentschke, the assistant city attorney, said at a council meeting on March 1, per The Santa Barbara News-Press.

The city said in the March report that Chick-fil-A customers "routinely ignore" signs telling motorists not to stop in the travel lane and that efforts by the fast-food chain to reconfigure queues haven't worked.

The report also said that Chick-fil-A had applied to add a second lane to its drive-thru and widen the driveway to increase capacity, but that officials didn't believe this would solve the problem.

At the March 1 council meeting, Travis Collins, owner of the State Street restaurant, said that he and the company "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," per The News-Press.

Collins has already implemented some solutions to address traffic flow, including hiring third parties to direct traffic, posting more signs to show entrances and exits, and creating an agreement with neighboring businesses for spillover parking, Chick-fil-A says.

"We want nothing more than to be a good neighbor," Collins told Insider in a statement. "I've been grateful for the opportunity to serve our Santa Barbara community for the past few years, including through donations to local non-profits, food drives, and more, and look forward to making a positive impact for many years to come."

Out-of-control drive-thru lines at Chick-fil-A are a problem beyond Santa Barbara. Three business owners in three states sued Chick-fil-A in 2020, saying the lines hurt business and drove away potential customers.

Other business owners who haven't filed lawsuits previously told Insider they faced similar problems from the chain's popular drive-thrus. Insider found dozens of instances of business complaints, police intervention, and significant traffic problems linked to Chick-fil-A's drive-thrus across more than 20 states in recent years.

Long lines are even a problem for Chick-fil-A itself. The chain estimates that nearly a third of possible customers are deterred by long lines, according to former CEO Dan Cathy.