SOUTHINGTON — Town planners approved drive-thru service for a Queen Street Starbucks location, a necessary addition to the coffee shop, according to property owners.
The location at 613 Queen St., right off the Interstate 84 exit, doesn’t have a drive-thru. Mike Riccio, one of the property owners, said that’s a huge handicap for a restaurant like Starbucks because the pandemic accelerated the trend towards drive-thru service.
“You will now see the majority of coffee places in this country go to drive-thru only. You won’t be able to go in and get your coffee,” Riccio told town planners Tuesday. “What we’re trying to create here is a predominantly drive-thru oriented retail location with the occasional ability for a user to go inside.”
The configuration approved Tuesday retains parking for customers and employees but adds drive-thru lanes.
Some planners were concerned about the layout, saying it could cause traffic backups on the restaurant’s access road and Queen Street.
Reconfiguring for drive-thru
Riccio and planner Sev Bovino, who represented the property owners, said they made some adjustments to the plan based on comments from town planners at the previous commission meeting.
An access road directly in front of the highway exit brings drivers to Starbucks as well as other businesses. Bovino proposed a dine-in or pickup entrance off that access road and a dedicated drive-thru entrance as well. He feels that will leave plenty of space on the property for cars to wait in the drive-thru line without backing up onto the access road or Queen Street.
Some planners had doubts, particularly since the drive-thru line intersects with traffic coming into the restaurant to park or exit.
Bob Hammersley, the commission chairman, said property owners had done the best they could given the property’s size and layout, but voted against allowing the change.
“In reality, it doesn’t work the way the plan intends it to work,” he said. “I don’t see it working myself.”
Peter Santago, a commission member, suggested something to keep cars waiting in line from stopping up traffic within the restaurant’s parking lot.
“I don’t know if it’s a stop sign, I don’t know if it’s a ‘don’t block the box’ on the pavement,” he said.
Drive-thru could be preferred by customers
Riccio’s research indicated that once a drive-thru is installed, it’ll be the preferred option for customers.
“We don’t anticipate a lot of cars coming in the other way because this is a drive-thru scenario,” Riccio said.
He believed the consequences for Starbucks were dire without a drive-thru.
“We’re looking at a vacant building here for a long time,” Riccio said.
The commission voted 6 to 1 in favor of allowing the change.