Most Californians are extremely in favor of new locations of In-N-Out (though the quality of their fries remain a point of contention). Not so in Walnut Creek however, where plans to open a location of the fast food chain were nixed after neighbors protested, saying a drive-thru would bring traffic and unwanted noise to the neighborhood.
As a result, the lease with In-N-Out (as well as a proposed Starbucks Drive-Thru) was terminated in 2017 by the site’s developers, Hall Equities Group. (To be fair, anyone who has eaten at an In-N-Out lately is intimately familiar with the long lines that snake through the parking lot, with chipper employees taking orders on iPads.) Now, Amy’s Drive-Thru, the vegetarian fast food restaurant from frozen food company Amy’s Kitchen, is giving it a try, with hopes that their organic, sustainable goods will sway Larkey Park Neighbors United, the group behind the protest.
In April, Amy’s preemptively sent a press release to media and neighbors announcing plans to open in the development. In it, Amy’s CEO Dave Wolfgram made the case fora drive-thru, saying “that while the majority of Amy’s customers dine in, the drive-thru option is especially popular with young families, seniors, and those with limited mobility.”
At the time, a representative for Amy’s told Eater “We don’t foresee any issues. Rather we are excited to get to know the community so we can tell them about our plans to bring organic, vegetarian meals to the community and our plans to build a LEED Gold certified building.”
That plan does not seem to be working: Neighbors have mobilized to the block the restaurant from opening. A recent post on the Larkey Park Neighbors United website reads:
While at first read it might seem like a better choice than the In-n-Out we opposed, the issue was never the food. The issue was, and continues to be, the fact that this location is a terrible place for a drive-thru establishment of any kind.
The land upon which Amy’s would build and operate its new restaurant was previously a mix of light industrial buildings, construction yards, office space, and a sports bar. Hall Equities Group plans include a renovated two-story mixed-use building with office space, and restaurant and retail space on the ground floor.
If approved, this would be the fourth Amy’s Drive-Thru to open, following the flagship location in Rohnert Park that opened in 2015, an outpost in SFO Terminal One planned for July 2019, and a Corte Madera location projected to open in early 2020. Like the original location, it would serve veggie burgers, shakes, french fries, pizza and burritos, all of which are available gluten- and dairy-free.
The promise of a living roof, solar panels, and compostable packaging doesn’t seem to be swaying neighbors on the issue of a drive-thru. Stay tuned for more as the parties involved make their cases.