Drive-thru of our discontent: Panera project on Garland gets held up, but sister property will likely have liquor

The parking lot on the left may soon be a restaurant with liquor sales, while the office building will soon be a Panera. (Photo from Google Maps)
The parking lot on the left may soon be a restaurant that serves liquor, while the office building will soon be a Panera. (Photo from Google Maps)

The fate of a defunct office building and parking lot flanking Beachview at Garland Road is being hashed out between developers and city officials, but it may all come down to a drive-thru. Their request for liquor at a historically dry property, however, hasn’t ruffled any feathers.

“I think they know I won’t give them a drive-thru,” says City Councilman Mark Clayton. “The neighbors do not want it.”

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The “they” to which he refers is applicant Robert Reeves & Associates, Inc. , filing on behalf of the Oklahoma-based developer Onyx Holdings, LLC. The developer secured two plots of land, at 9323 and 9239 Garland, currently home to a defunct three-story office complex and a parking lot. Panera is interested in the office-complex site, but their planned store model demands a drive-thru.

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“It’s a new concept they’re trying out,” says Olga Torres Holyoak, the city planner assigned to this project.

But not in East Dallas, Clayton says, adamant that a drive-thru is not an appropriate addition to the busy thoroughfare.

“We’re hoping [Clayton] will change his mind, or Panera bread will change its mind” about the drive-thru, says Robert Reeves, the consultant representing the developers. “We’re trying to get this resolved and, quite frankly, we don’t have that done.”

Reeves says they are waiting to take the Panera project before the Dallas City Council for final approval until the drive-thru issues has been settled.

Plans for the parking-lot plot across the way on Beachview have not been defined, but do involve stripping the land of the existing “Dry Overlay,” a leftover from the strict liquor laws that existed when Dallas was dry. Colloquially known as “Hard D” zoning, it was meant to protect the neighborhood character from businesses that serve or sell booze.

But Reeves points out that the neighborhood is anything but dry, in fact, Urban Vines Wine Bistro is right next door.

“Everything in that neighborhood is wet except for these seven lots,” Reeves says, adding that they would have also requested this change at the Panera property, but it sits within 300 feet of a church, making it ineligible for alcohol sales.

Although Lakewood Councilman Philip Kingston says the general city policy is to protect “Hard D” zoning, in August, the City Plan Commission approved the developer’s request to convert it to a D1-Liquor Control Overlay District, which would allow an incoming business to seek a special use permit to sell or serve alcohol.

Reeves says they don’t have any specific business in mind for the parking-lot plot, but want to make the property as attractive as possible to potential tenants.

“The ability to have alcoholic sales would be a major plus and something any restaurant would want,” he adds.

Clayton says he hopes to see an independent business in the second plot, a trade-off for the national chain planned across the way. “In exchange, you’ve got to give me a local sit-down restaurant on the other site,” he says.

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  • Txfashionista

    More “neighbors” have voiced their opinion of WANTING it. No groups or “neighbors” have opposed it publicly. There is a petition of more than 785 signatures from people in support of this location opening with a drive thru once they secure a suplemental permit for the drive thru. Mr. Clayton has voiced a strong opinion of opening locally owned eateries in the area. Since there are no groups in opposition and there isn’t a residential area that would be directly impacted by a drive thru the only “neighbor” he could be referring to would be Another Broken Egg which is a locally owned franchised breakfast and lunch restaurant. A drive thru would impact their business, but if Panera opened without one people would have to choose which door to walk into everyday. The convenience of a drive thru would definitely have a negative impact on their business. Since nothing else lines up with Clayton’s reasoning logically and since the Advocate has mysteriously removed the other article regarding this topic where there were much more heated responses involving council members from other districts, I can only conclude that I am onto something. Pathetic!

  • Pingback: Neighbors petition Clayton to allow Panera drive-thru - Lakewood/East Dallas()

  • G_David

    You seem WAY too hung up on the horrors or Burger King. And drive-thrus in general. You’re picking the wrong fight.

  • Pingback: Panera project on Garland is dead, owner ‘considering other options’ - Lakewood/East Dallas()

  • plsiii

    I would argue that the title of your pole was oversimplified and that Mr. Clayton is listening to the constituents that live within the radius defined by the city as those that will be impacted immediately by the zoning change.

    Also, I’m imagining that “corporate guarantee” is a guarantee that the land owner gets his money and not that a Panera bread stays there to serve food… but that’s just my imagination.

  • Kirbstx1

    Your “no-drive through” position is noted, but you are in a very small minority. A simple poll taken over a 24 hour period on showed that 84% of the residents in the area want the drive-thru versus only 16% who don’t (154 households). Councilman Clayton is not listening to his constituents. The developers have letters of support from several area homeowners associations as well.

    It’s true that by changing the existing zoning, it will allow for ANY company to possibly have a drive-thru on that site in the future. However, the Panera lease would
    be corporate guaranteed for 15 years and then there would be another 15 year

  • plsiii

    With all due respect I believe Mr. Clayton has his constituent’s best interests in mind. This isn’t about a Panera drive thru, this is about changing the existing zoning to allow for the ability for ANY company to have a drive thru on this site from here forward.

    I have eaten at Panera and it’s a fine place, it’s definitely fast food but a fine, just like einstiens, or mcdonalds or wherever. The point is the drive thru, cities across the country are beginning to re-think the drive thru and we have more than our fair share in the immediate vicinity.

    Thanks for your time and while I acknowledge you can find anything on the internet I found this and it argues the healthfulness of Panera. So while it would be in good company with Chick-fil-A, Sonic, McDonalds, I’d prefer my not-terrible for you fast casual dining establishment to come without a drive thru.

  • Kirbstx1

    What’s wrong with having a carwash and Chick-Fila? I have to drive to Tommy’s Terrific on Ross for a decent car wash as of now.

  • Nathan Wood

    With all due respect, I said that Panera was my first choice and first phone call. Based on void studies and demographic data, we have marketed to many uses and have not found a use that we feel is better than Panera. There are many QSR/fast foods that we “passed on” we have also not wanted users to use the existing building. A substance treatment office (allowed by current zoning)would not be good for the community. We want to do the right thing and think longterm.

  • Kirbstx1

    Plus, I think the developers would sell to you at this point.

  • Kirbstx1

    “Value of the embodied energy in the existing building? It’s not an architecturally significant structure—it’s a mess. Panera will not build anymore stores in DFW without the drive-thru, and fyi….the developers had already turned down Jack in the Box and Panda Express.

  • plsiii

    Well, unfortunately it’s not for sale and that’s not really a reasonable response when all that’s being asked (and hypothetically so at this point) is that the current owner reconsider what he has purchased, the value of the embodied energy in the existing building and explore all options. Not just take the first thing that comes along, he literally said at a LFH neighborhood meeting that Panera was his only phone call. They accepted with the drive thru caveat, so if they drop the drive thru requirement he could have a Panera there.

  • Nathan Wood

    Agreed and would encourage you to email to share your thoughts and encourage him to visit a Panera and familiarize himself with the concept, how they sponsor sports teams, host community meetings in their locations offer clean food. A drive thru may be helpful to a parent with a car full of kids headed to a soccer game or disabled person, etc. that getting out of their vehicle may be a challenge at times. I am sure he wants to listen to the community he represents.

  • Kirbstx1

    Better idea….why don’t you buy the building, remove the asbestos, and rehabilitate it?

  • Kirbstx1

    I live in Forest Hills and support the idea of a Panera Bread, and I’m definitely not hung-up regarding the drive-thru aspect—it really doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of things. The way I look at it, it’s not going to bring any significant number of extra cars to Garland Rd. A Panera with a drive-thru is not considered a destination in my opinion. It will not bring in any extra people from other neighborhoods. It will just simply serve the families that already live in the area and traverse the street anyway. I can’t tell you how many times I drive back and forth on Garland Rd. between all my trips to schools, dance lessons, basketball practice, etc. Yeah, maybe once in a while I’d peel off and hit the Panera Bread drive-thru out of pure convenience, and I’d be happy for it. I think a Panera Bread would be a great addition to the area. I’m not sure how Councilman Clayton can properly gauge that people don’t want a Panera drive-thru. What methodology is he using? I believe it’s just HIS personal preference. Evidence of that is in the article when he says… ““I think they know I won’t give them a drive-thru,” says City Councilman Mark Clayton. “The neighbors do not want it…’ve got to give me a local sit-down restaurant on the other site.”

    His use of the words “I” and “me” tell the true story. I think there are plenty of neighbors that would be fine with Panera Bread going in.

  • Nathan Wood

    I read about a restaurant closing in the Lakewood Advocate at least once per month and 2 this week. The existing office building is a blight on this wonderful neighborhood. There have been multiple break ins in December and looks like a homeless person camping out. The building is full of Asbestos and is beyond its useful life. In my opinion, a Panera Bread is a first class operator and has a commitment to healthful food options, a true community partner and a place where residents can gather/meet. Mom and Pop operations cant support the costs of the site. This is a HUGE improvement and a step to encourage other quality development on Garland Rd! This is not fast food, this is a quick casual option that will be a corporate long term lease and will with stand the test of time.

    As developers and owners of the site, we have offered masonry construction, a large patio with a trellis with live vine, bike racks, etc. We are long term owners and believe in this neighborhood and offering something that enhances quality of life; including a drive thru. Note we performed a traffic study and the impact of a Panera with a drive thru is negligible (less than a 41K sf office) and Panera will do less than 30% of sales in a DT window (Chick Fil-A is closer to 70%). In addition, we have met with many of the homeowners associations and feel that this is the best option for the professional building II site.

    Neighbors and Property Owners in District 9:

    The only thing between you and a Panera Bread with a drive thru at this location is your councilman!

    If you would like to see this building gone and Panera in its place, please email to show your continued support.

  • Michael Williams

    They can’t afford to pull all the asbestos. And what could it be used for, offices, apartments? That would help the traffic, so would closing two lanes too

  • plsiii

    Actually as it stands now it is not being built as anything, if Panera would agree to a non-drive thru store then they may be building one… How about the owners rehabilitate the existing building?!?

  • Michael Williams

    But the place is being built as a Panera, not a McDonalds, Burger King, etc. How about Mr. Clayton have to drive by that building as it deteriorates day by day. I suspect there is something else to it. Perhaps the Arboretum wants another parking lot or a building for “other uses.”

  • plsiii

    It’s my understanding both the carwash and chicfila are both moving forward. Both without any input with surrounding communities under the watch of the previous council person. FYI

  • plsiii

    Please understand the point here isn’t the Panera as the owner can put any drive thru he desires once he has the zoning allowing a drive thru establishment. So business being business, if Burger King comes with better lease terms you can count on a bugerking taking the place of the planned Panera.

  • plsiii

    This is a rare chance to reshape (or not) the existing zoning for this plat of land as it is currently zoned LO I think which means “office”

    Please understand the point here isn’t the Panera as the owner can put any drive thru he desires once he has the zoning allowing a drive thru establishment. So business being business, if Burger King comes with better lease terms you can count on a bugerking taking the place of the planned Panera.

  • Txfashionista

    It’s also important to mention that Apple maps shows 8 McDonald’s drive thru’s within a 5 mile radius of my house. How do those keep getting approved?

  • Txfashionista

    If Mark Clayton screws up us getting a Panera I won’t vote for him again. We are the forgotten side of town in this city! We have nothing as far as the conveniences that all other areas of town have, as well as the suburbs. Has he even seen a Panera drive thru? It’s so well done you don’t even realize it’s there. Panera offers healthy options and provides a nice sitting area with wifi. This would probably relieve some of the stress of the Starbucks in Casa Linda so some of us could actually go in and sit down.

  • Forrest

    So a car wash, the ultimate drive through, constant in/out has been approved however, Chick-fil-A and Panera are being questioned about having a drive-thru. The logic makes no sense. At least at Chick-fil-A and Panera one could stay for awhile. To me they seem like a very nice fit next to the already existing extreme drive-thru Sonic.

  • The_Overdog

    There is a sidewalk – because if you look closely there is a road next to a road so the sidewalk is parallel to the access road to 78, which then sort of falls apart just south of here (Gaston Parkway is the name of the access road). So the street grid is even worse than you say! I’m not sure what anyone was thinking when designing this area but a drive-thru is sort of an upgrade.

  • plsiii

    I appreciate the city councilman’s position on this. There are plenty of drive thru choices already along this corridor, with Chick-fil-a coming soon… So let’s not say “what’s one more” but ask “what else could we provide the community in this space” and an added bonus if we can re-use the existing building!

  • Los_Politico

    Why can’t you sell alcohol 300 feet from a church? Seems like a dumb ol rule from a bygone era.

  • Nathaniel Barrett

    The site has has no street grid access, is served by a 6-lane road, has no sidewalks, has drive-thrus in both directions and is surrounded by the some of the most auto dependent community designs in existence. I’d call the drive-thru a rational response to the existing environment.