By Ted AYALA
Local business owners Chris and Stephanie McReynolds stepped to the Glendale City Council dais Tuesday night to voice their concerns about their new business. Their business, a Straw Hat Pizza franchise located in the La Crescenta area, has been mired in red tape due to parking issues related to qualifying for a conditional use permit. The location for the restaurant is 3463 Foothill Blvd., which previously served as home to another pizza chain – Shakey’s.
“This [problem] is based upon whether our restaurant should be classified as a full-service or fast-food establishment,” said McReynolds.
A sticking point between the city and the McReynolds’ has been the classification of the Straw Hat Pizza as a fast-food restaurant. The position of the McReynolds’, as well as that of the Straw Hat Restaurants, Inc., is that the franchises are all full-service restaurants. The previous tenant at the location – Urartu – was a full-service restaurant, which would seem to indicate a precedent in favor of the McReynolds’.
“Considering the prior tenant’s status, we assumed our business would be grandfathered in,“ he said.
But the city’s planning department countered with a designation of the business as a fast-food restaurant solely for Straw Hat’s requirement that customers place an order across a counter before taking their seats.
“This decision which is the first time Straw Hat has received such a classification has placed us in the uncomfortable position of either going through a lengthy and expensive process during which we cannot perform any construction,” said Mc Reynolds, “or determining whether to open as a full-service restaurant by the guidelines of the City of Glendale, which would cost us thousands of dollars a year in increased payroll costs.”
McReynolds urged the council to make an exception for his business. Aside from taking orders at a counter, he noted the business otherwise functions as would any other full-service restaurant in the city.
“I ask for such an exemption even if it should fall ever so slightly outside the city’s codes for classification,” he said.
He also affirmed that the planning department had been as helpful as it could be, with many of its agents expressing sympathy for the McReynolds. But they have told him that they are bound to strictly adhere to the city’s guidelines.
“We are the little guys,” said Stephanie McReynolds. “We do everything we can to be Glendale-friendly. We were born in Glendale; do all our business in Glendale, and we feel that we have something to offer our community.”
“The location is perfect,” she added. “It will be the largest franchise in the chain. But we’re in real danger of losing that opportunity. Up in the foothills we don’t have a family restaurant. This is an issue that serves the needs of the community of Glendale.”
Councilmember Rafi Manoukian noted that ordinances always have “gray areas” and that he had forwarded the McReynolds’ email to City Manager Scott Ochoa.
“In these situations [council] should do something to help these individuals who have invested their savings into their business, which I think will be successful, to facilitate them as they had planned,” he said.
Ochoa said that while he agreed with the McReynolds’ position, the city’s codes were “crystal clear,” though he did open the possibility of bringing to council an amendment that would address the issue.