City denies return of the (Burger) King

Burger King
A Minneapolis zoning board denied a certificate that would have allowed Burger King to reopen its restaurant at 34th & Nicollet with a drive-through. The building has been vacant since April 2018. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

The Minneapolis Board of Zoning and Adjustment had no problem refusing the king’s wishes.

Burger King’s attempts to reclaim its realm at 34th & Nicollet were rebuffed Dec. 12 when the zoning board voted unanimously to deny a nonconforming use certificate that would have allowed the chain to re-establish a drive-through at the currently vacant location.

Burger King opened a restaurant at 34th & Nicollet in 1970, and the building has had a drive-through since 1964, according to city documents. In April 2018, the Burger King closed after the franchisee, P3 Foods, went bankrupt and the store has sat vacant since.

Today, Minneapolis prohibits new drive-through construction due to concerns over air and noise pollution from idling cars and the dangers posed to pedestrians from motorists seeking to access the restaurants. City policy holds that any property with a nonconforming use certificate loses those privileges if the property has been abandoned for a year. By the time Burger King applied for a new certificate in November, well over a year had passed.

In its appeal, Burger King argued that the bankruptcy of P3 Foods was out of its control and that old equipment from the restaurant could not be removed until October 2019, after the liquidation process ended.

Matt Perry, the chair of the Board of Zoning and Adjustment, said the board felt Burger King failed to show clear and convincing evidence that it was unable to work on the building in the year following its vacancy or that it had tried to speed up the process of removing P3 Foods equipment from the site. If the company had communicated its intent sooner, he thinks the board may have been more sympathetic.

“They should have been contacting the city earlier than they did,” Perry said.

Many nearby residents submitted written statements to the board opposing Burger King’s return, citing air, noise and litter pollution resulting from the restaurant and its drive-through.

Burger King representatives declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation. A local attorney representing the company did not return calls seeking comment on an appeal status. An appeal is required to be filed within 10 days, but had not been made as
of press time.