Should Towns Be Able To Block Fast Food Joints From Opening?

Last week, we brought you the story of an Illinois town that rejiggered its zoning regulations to keep an upscale tattoo parlor from opening. This drew several jeers from readers for the village council that made the decision. And yet, there are several municipalities around the country that have effectively banned fast food and chain restaurants from opening within town limits, and there’s barely a peep from dissenters.

There are currently at least a dozen municipalities — including seven in California alone — that have zoning laws on the books that prohibit or strongly regulate so-called “formula restaurants.” Most of the towns have not faced legal challenges on these regulations, but that could change with a lawsuit recently filed in Utah.

Investors who has hoped to open a Subway in scenic Springdale, Utah — one of Forbes’ 20 Prettiest Towns — have filed suit against the town, its officials and lawyers, claiming the 4-year-old regulation won’t hold up in court.

“We knew of the ordinance by the time we contracted with Subway, but my clients looked into it and absolutely believed that ordinance was unconstitutional,” said the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the suit.

The decision in this case could have far-reaching implications for towns that have been using zoning regulations to ward off fast food franchises. For example, there’s Sister Bay, Wisconsin, which recently issued a fast food restaurant ban after seeing a developer’s plans to open a Subway.

We don’t imagine the lawsuit will be resolved anytime today, so we’re asking you to play judge, jury and executioner in our scientifically unscientific poll:

Towns block chain restaurants to save charm [USA Today]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hoss says:

    The kinds of towns that typically prohibit fast food joints are also towns where the rent is too high for them to operate profitably. The zoning can become an issue when someone wants to open a Dunkin Donuts or similar joint in a space that is too small for another business.

    • tbax929 says:

      I moved to the “exclusive” section of my town, known as the Northeast Foothills. There’s not a fast food place anywhere near where I live. You have to go down the mountain to get to any fast food joint. There is also only one supermarket, and the prices there are outrageous.

    • dg says:

      Oh, so you’ve been to Lake Forest Illinois then? (about 15 min SW of Libertyville by the way). Fake Lorest as we like to call it has a Burger King and a McDonalds – on opposite sides of the town. For the longest time, BK couldn’t have carry out, and fromt he configuration of the restaurant, you’d never know it was there unless you really looked.

      McDonalds doesn’t have a high sign, very low – made of wood I think. Outside looks like a barn-style building. They couldn’t operate a drive-through until they’d had $1 million in sales, AND the McDonald’s had to donate $50,000 to the local high school – and the High School turned it into a hand-painted tiled wall that is up at the McDonald’s. They suffer through very restrictive ordinances on lighting, drive-through operation, etc…

      All total bullshit so Fake Lorest can keep it’s blue blood “We Only Eat At the Southgate Cafe for $50” image…

      If the place they want to build is a historic district and they mandate a certain style, materials be used, etc. and it’s for EVERYONE in the district – then yeah, ok. But not this “we hate fast food” crap – it’s not an adult bookstore going up next to an elementary school – it’s a restaurant. What if they wanted to ban all Klingon food purveyors? Or only allow Soy purveyors? Crazy…

      I’d build too – tell them to piss off…

    • crazedhare says:

      We have the opposite problem in my town – landlords raising the rent to a level that the small Mom and Pop places that characterize our revitalized, pleasant downtown area, cannot afford. Only the national franchizes can afford it, and there is a fear that our downtown will crumble into a wasteland of Subways, Starbucks and other chains who won’t respect the character of the town nor contribute toward it’s culture. Personally, I see both sides, and am willing to let people vote with their dollars. Today it is a Subway, but we had the same fight a couple of years back about a Quiznos that closed for lack of business so quickly that many locals don’t even remember it.

  2. PunditGuy says:

    If they can zone out adult entertainment, they can zone out fast food. I don’t think they should be able to zone out either, but let’s be consistent.

    • Shadowfire says:

      Yes, let’s allow all forms of business to exist.

    • CookiePuss says:

      I was thinking the same thing regarding strip clubs. I guess the tattoo place fell under the same moral guideline. I think the problem is banning fast food joints but allowing locally owned food joints. It’s hard to allow one but not the other when their selling the same commodity.

    • Kevin411 says:

      State law in Georgia (and many states) requires that any zoning authority must allow all types of legal businesses (subject to some limits such as available space) /somewhere/ in the district. In my city we allow adult entertainment establishments only in heavy-Industrial zoned areas.

      Our quaint downtown, which isn’t much…yet, has an overlay district that bans drive-thru windows and such. McDonald’s and Walgreens are perfectly welcome, but your building has to front on the street (no parking lots between the front of the building and the sidewalk) and you can’t have a drive-thru. (Or you can build one a quarter-mile down the street outside the overlay.) We also have incentives for shared parking…such as an office and a bar sharing a parking lot so we have fewer spaces. If this had not been in place back when downtown was a wasteland, we would have lost all chances of developing a walkable community, which is now becoming a reality, because all the valuable corner lots would have been taken by fast food, leaving no room for 2-5 story mixed use developments (some of which will have fast food and drug store locations…without drive throughs.)

  3. Hrustar says:

    My town blocks fast food places. Has for quite some time. Of course, we also have a rule that all new buildings must be brick. We have an image to maintain.

    • teke367 says:

      We had a brick McDonalds in my town, just closed down actually. I’m not sure if it was a town ordinance, or a condition for leasing the space from the Plaza it was in (all the stores had the same brick build, and same plain white signage). It is a weird site, seeing a McDonalds and Starbucks, but not seeing the logos.

      • selianth says:

        Yeah, that’s pretty common in Massachusetts where a lot of the richer communities want to preserve their “quaint” feeling (and keep property values up.) Most of those towns, and some others besides, don’t allow drive-throughs at all, either. It kinda sucks, having to actually go IN to Dunkin’s to get my coffee!

        • Remmy75 says:

          Yeah that would be my town in Mass which has no liquor stores or liquor sold at grocery stores. Someone wanted to open a very classy wine store and there was all kinds of uproar. They were worried that it would be a bad influence on the kids. Too bad my town has the worst drinking and drug addicted teenagers.

          In the end they relented and let the wine store open which is nice as its close to my house and had a great selection! Plus you wouldnt know it was a wine store just driving by.

          • Etoiles says:

            I grew up in a dry town in MA, that also had no fast-food joints (except for Dunkin’s, which at the time it opened didn’t serve anything other than donuts and coffee). It was a geographically small town (4 square miles) surrounded on all sides by cities and towns with no such ordinances, so I didn’t even realize until I was about 16 that the BK we went to was in the next city over, heh.

    • slyabney says:

      Jackson Hole, Wy does this too. All buildings must look, I guess rustic or like a lodge?

      It’s so weird to roll up to a grocery store/K-Mart/McDonald’s that looks like a ski lodge. But then again, it’s pretty expensive to live there and mostly for tourist, so yeah.

  4. disposable says:

    The town I live in actively does this to almost any company that isnt owned by someone in town specifically.. Applebees wanted in and they didnt want them to, so they built on the outskirts of town, effectively flipping them the bird. I eat there considerably more often once I found it out, small mindedness like that keeps the town from growing.

    • zandar says:

      what’s small minded about preferring restaurants be owned by locals? I see that as economic preservation.

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        I don’t live in said unnamed town, but if there were two applicants for the same area and one is a locally owned business, cool, give it to the local business.

        If there’s a storefront that’s vacant, however, and they’re not going to issue the permit because “y’all ain’t from ’round here” then it’s just being anti-growth.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Apparently in your mind all small towns have some kind of Southern twang.

          • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

            I never learned how to type out Wisconsin vowel sounds. :(

      • shepd says:

        Take this to its logical conclusion and you will see the issue. It means that someone into business either ends up running everything in town, or has to constantly move. It also prevents employees from being able to open up the same type of store if they think their employer sucks, since they’d have to open it in another city to make money, but they can’t, because they’re barred from that.

        Each to their own, I suppose.

    • mac-phisto says:

      not all growth is good. i work in a town that has seen double-digit growth (both residential & commercial – industrial has actually shrunk slightly) every year in the past decade. the result? double-digit tax property tax increases every year, construction everywhere, traffic everywhere, & so on. growth can be a burden, too & that’s the whole point of zoning & planning: managing growth properly to maintain a healthy community.

  5. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I don’t doubt that there is significant pushback on the part of city officials to keep fast food places from over-running historical areas. I remember in the tattoo parlor story, someone mentioned Alexandria, VA. Old Town Alexandria is a deeply, deeply historical area and I can count on one hand the number of “formula restaurants” there are. I know of one Chipotle and a Subway. There are probably only two Starbucks in the entire area, too.

    Aside from historical areas, it’s not so much the business but more of the clientele they can sometimes bring. One person’s business is another teenager’s loitering spot.

    • sonneillon says:

      It could also be because buying the space in old town Alexandria costs over a million dollars easy. And the closer to the pier you get that cost goes up. Also they have to compete with better restaurants.

    • quasijo says:

      Old Town has a bunch of formula restaurants, they just blend into the historic architecture. In addition to Chipotle and Subway we have a Popeye’s Chicken, Austin Grill, King Street Blues, Five Guys, Cosi, Bertucci’s and two Starbucks. That’s just on King Street.

      It’s a testament to the effort (i.e. money) Alexandria puts into Old Town that folks don’t notice all the chains. Even my short list above took several minutes to remember. As for loitering teens, I’d like to see them sit on those crappy, bumpy sidewalks like we used to do when I was a kid.


      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        There are multiple Austin Grill restaurants, but only seven of them. There are only three King Street Blues restaurants in existence, so I don’t consider either of those restaurants true formula restaurants. They don’t operate locations outside the DC Metro area and all are owned by the same people, like Jose Andres and his company own all the Jaleo locations (DC, Bethesda, Arlington).

        I forgot Cosi and Five Guys though. And Popeye’s, I forgot about that too.

        • Doncosmic says:

          That five guys could not be considered a formula restaurant either, since it is one of the ones owned by the original founders of the chain. It was the 3rd ever opened I believe and was a small local business at the time.

      • Doncosmic says:

        King street blues isn’t a formula restaurant since that one was the first one. they only recently built other locations.

  6. J Dig says:

    It would seem that if option number 2 was entirely legitimate the fast food establishment would go out of business because of no customers?

  7. johnva says:

    Absolutely. I’ve got no problem with them regulating any form of business they choose out of locating in their town. As long as they don’t target a specific chain, and instead target a *type* of business, it seem fine. There is no “right” to locate a business wherever you want.

    • JMILLER says:

      This is EXACTLY zoning out a type of business. If the town wants to ban ALL restaurants they can, but they can not pick winners and losers. They can not say, no hispanic restaurants, no asian restaurants, no “formula” restaurants (whatever that is). When does something become a formula? If they have two locations? 5? 10? 100?
      This is a ridiculous concept by OLD WHITE PEOPLE. This is not building a mega mall (which requires extra infrastructure) or a WAL MART which takes up huge swatches of property and effectively forces larger roads to be safe. If the people of your town do not want the business they will not eat there.

      • coren says:

        Walmart isn’t blocked due to road safety. If that comes up as a reason, it’s generally a pretext.

        • Conformist138 says:

          Not always. Walmart wanted to build on an island in my city. An ISLAND! The island already has a mall and residential areas, but only two ways for people to get on or off (I-5 or the two-lane Marine Drive). The city flipped out- there was just no way a walmart would manage to survive without causing year-round traffic jams (christmas was already enough to make you rip your hair out). The city has a few Walmarts, but this particular area just couldn’t handle it. The city told Walmart that the entire I-5 bridge would need to be wider before they could build there. At one point it was mentioned that Walmart, if they wanted to build in that terrible spot so badly, could pay to widen the bridge themselves. They never did, but now the bridge is in need of replacing since it’s now too small for the normal traffic. Maybe Walmart will come knocking again once the city is done dealing with that issue in about 10 years.

      • halcyon22 says:

        I don’t think age or ethnicity has to do with the decision, but rather how the council feels about big vs. small businesses.

        Also FYI:
        swatch =
        swath =

        • Andyb2260 says:

          The thing is that most fast food restaurants ARE small businesses. There’s a Dairy Queen by my place of employment, it’s owned and operated by a married couple. They each work 12 to 14 hours a day to keep their business running.
          People talk as if “Mega-Burger, Inc” wants to put yet another burger place in my town, and more often than not it isn’t “Mega Burger” it’s John Smith and his family taking perhaps the biggest gamble of their lives in opening a fast food restaurant.

  8. dbeahn says:

    I’m OK with zoning out corporate chains in favor of small business, but I’m against changing zoning laws to screw small businesses.

    • llcooljabe says:

      The problem is, often corporate chains=small business. Subways are operated by franchisees, as are Quiznos, etc. This business may be the way that a someone with an entrepreneurial spirit gets his start.

      • Pax says:

        Yeah. Subways are independently owned franchises. My mother looked into buying a Subway franchise, some fifteen years back. (Decided not to, as she felt the “company store” setup was ludicrous – she could have gotten higher-quality deli meat for less money, by shopping at the supermarket!)

        KFCs are independently owned too, IIRC.

        And I know many McDonalds are independently owned franchises, too.

  9. kayfouroh says:

    If we start allowing towns to block fast food places from opening, what’s stopping certain chains from paying towns to allow only their franchises to open? i.e. Here’s some cash for only allowing Pizza Hut to open here. Don’t allow Domino’s or Papa Johns.

  10. sonneillon says:

    It depends. I think if they meet the zoning requirements when they fill out the application it should be allowed. I don’t think that a town should attempt to change their zoning after the application is filed to keep a business they do not want out.

    • 339point4 says:

      My little shoreline CT town did exactly that. Some landowner bulldozed a large hill on one side of town in order to court a movie theater that ended up being built in the next town over. Stuck with a large plateau, he started shopping for big box stores to fill it. This freaked out the zoning board of my town, which then halted ALL new construction on that side of town in order to deal with it. For about two years, property owners were still required to pay taxes, but couldn’t actually do anything to their property.
      Once the ban lifted, the town had a new rule that prohibited buildings over a certain square footage, effectively zoning out all big box stores. The plateau owner finally contracted with an outlet mall to build a high-end mall in the spot (filled with small stores), but the crash of 2008 permanently halted construction before it was halfway done.
      Now he’s once again courting a big box – Costco – and it has the town divided among those who are sick of looking at a decimated mountain and just want SOMETHING there, to those who feel that the addition of a Costco will harm the town.

      We also had a bit of a fiasco with fast food restaurants about a decade or two ago. The two fast food joints in town – McDonald’s and Wendy’s – as well as both McDonald’s on either side of the interstate highway approaching the town, were all disallowed from having a drive-through window. I was only a kid when this was going on, but if I recall correctly, the argument against the drive-through was that it would promote litter when people threw bags of stuff out of their car windows.
      McDonalds eventually brought in some lawyers who pointed out that the local banks had drive-through windows, and if the town was not going to allow the windows, then the banks had to shut them down, or zoning laws had to change and allow windows across the board. We have drive-through windows now in both in-town fast food places as well as those on the highway.
      As far as I can tell, increased litter is not an issue.

  11. c!tizen says:

    This is a loaded question. When you say “should towns be able to block” something, what you really mean is should the handful of city council members that constantly overlook their constituents wishes in favor of their own opinions and agendas be able to block (insert anything that may be enjoyable here)

  12. llcooljabe says:

    The issue is: Are all forms of restriction equal?

    If so, then nothing should be banned. If not, then how does one decide?

    I am purposely being philosophical…

    How do you distinguish what deserves to be banned and what doesn’t?

    Adult entertainment?
    Fast Food?

    Where does one draw the line between infringing on freedoms/thought police and community “protection”/”image”/etc.?

    • JMILLER says:

      All of those reasons are not important to me. The question would be, does the place where they want to put the business have the required infrastructure to handle the business. If it is a Wal Mart you need the water department to handle the water and sewage they generate. You need traffic flow to be safe and not bring the town to a standstill.

      • jessjj347 says:

        this. typically these fast-food places “stick together” in a town, so the dynamics of that area of the town could change considerably, especially when it comes to traffic.

    • tournant says:

      Adult entertainment? no.
      Fast Food? yes.
      Wal-Mart? yes.
      Tattoos? no.
      Hooters? yes.

  13. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Just block/ban everything.
    No stores, no restaurants, no tobacco, no liquor, no soda, no marriages.
    Just get rid of it all.

  14. alisonann says:

    I am totally fine with banning fast food joints. The town I grew up in did, and I always appreciated it. And if I wanted some fast food I could just go to the next town, where there were always McDonald’s wrappers on the ground.

    • Akuma Matata says:

      So then aren’t towns simply shooting themselves in the foot by banning those businesses within their limits? If people will frequent those establishments, shouldn’t a town want that business there because it brings jobs and tax revenue?

      • Liam Kinkaid says:

        They’re probably juggling the increased tax revenue of the businesses vs. the maintenance of home property values, which keeps property taxes high. There are probably some other considerations in there too that I’m not aware of.

      • tsukiotoshi says:

        Not necessarily. I lived in Bar Harbor for several years and there were no chain restaurants in the city limits except for a rather sad looking Subway which quietly disappeared one day. It was really nice, actually. There were so many independent, local sandwich shops and restaurants that there was really no reason to drive the 30 minutes to the nearest town with fast food.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Well, if there’s going to be a business there no matter what, the town can easily just choose what kind of business it wants to allow. Maybe it means fewer jobs, but in the long run it might mean the preservation of a town’s entire legacy.

    • JMILLER says:

      And when the town tells you, you MUST paint your house white, and you must not grow tomatoes, or you can not have the car you want in view, or everything must look a certain way. Sounds like a really bad HOA to me.

      • coren says:

        There seems to be a solution occurring to me…I think it involves living somewhere else. Hmmm

      • jessjj347 says:

        BS. This isn’t about telling you what you can and can’t do. If you want fast food, you just have to go a few more miles to get it. I bet these people could even get delivery from a nearby chain. If anything this town is telling you, “try to be more healthy” or “stop being lazy by using a drive through” which is a good thing.

    • shepd says:

      I grew up in a town without any fast food (although not by choice, it just wasn’t that big) and I found more wrappers littering the highway there than in the nearby city with the McDonald’s. Quite frankly, I’d rather have had the convenience as well, since I still had the litter.

    • SteveZim1017 says:

      and when the next town over bans them as well? and then the next and the next, and suddenly I can only eat where someone else has deemed Acceptable. sounds awsome.

  15. Pheo says:

    Springdale (at the entrance to Zion National Park) is a beautiful town with an artsy charm. The restaurants are all local and give the community character, but finding a quick bite to each in town is a pain. Most of the restaurants are overpriced and on the weekends it is hard to get a table.

    The town of Jasper in Alberta’s Jasper National Park has a Subway. It didn’t detract from the ambiance of the town at all. The way they did the signage made it look like a local joint. And there were many unique local restaurants that seemed to the thriving in the area. I don’t see why Springdale can’t allow Subway while making sure the look of the restaurant fits the town.

  16. BrianneG says:

    Or you could just me from a town small enough that fast food doesn’t want to go there. I ALWAYS wished my town of 6,000 (now about 10,000) would get a McDonald’s. It got a Subway and Domino’s in the early ’90s and now has a Taco Bell attached to the new gas station (the third gas station). Plus, there’s a Gold Star Chili in the new part of town. You also only have to drive 16 miles now to get to a Starbucks because they put one in a new Target.

    I may not eat at McDonald’s anymore, but I still wish my hometown had one.

    The town next to where I work doesn’t allow drive-thrus, but they have all the fast food restaurants. You just have to get out of your car.

    • Darury says:

      The reason (as I understand it) is typically due to the startup costs required. Years ago, Subway franchises ran somewhere in the $10k range + facilities to start one, while McDonalds and other large franchises typically require an investment in the $1M+ range.

      If you’re going to take a chance with starting a small franchise shop, I’d rather be out the 50-100k for a Subway in a small town vs over a miliion for finding out that McDonald’s didn’t get enough customers.

  17. ARP says:

    This is a strange one because its more emotional than logical. For example, how is a local restaurant any different from a Burger King from a zoning, health, or safety perspective?

    The problem is that we feel like Fast Food places and other chains are eating away the character of our small towns, historic neighborhoods and even some suburbs. However, we’re collectively, the reason they exist there (Sort of like the Wal-Mart Southpark episode). So, we’re legislating a feeling, and that often doesn’t end well.

    • scratchie says:

      I don’t know… didn’t we just see an article the other day about how hundreds of people were getting sick from eating at Taco Bell? Gee, maybe a local business could get their food from local suppliers, or, at the very least, have the option to choose their suppliers based on their quality control practices and not based on a decision made in a corporate headquarters thousands of miles away.

      • craptastico says:

        i’m sure just as many local restaurants get people sick as chains. it just doesn’t make the news.

  18. valthun says:

    If there are already fast food or chain restaurants in the area then no. If the council changes it to block a new construction then no. If there are no chains already in the area and it has been on the books then by all means they should be able to keep it up.
    All that being said, I think that they could regulate their proliferation. I mean I live in a town with 2 subway restaurants and the town is 4 miles square. Granted one is a close walk from my home, and the other a closer walk to my work. We also have a huge industrial section in half of the town, so one caters to townies and the other to the businesses. In the heart of the town there are no chains other than drug stores, and I think drug stores need to be better regulated. In a 4 mile stretch of the same road there are 4 Walgreens plus Target and Ralphs with a drug store. That’s just ridiculous.

  19. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I live in a little town. We don’t even have a Mcdonalds. I’m happy about that.

  20. brinks says:

    The small town that I grew up next to had laws banning fast food places. Somehow, a couple of Dunkin’ Donuts made it in, but that was it (it was in MA, where I believe at least one Dunkin’ Donuts per town is mandated by law). I get it in places with some sort of ritzy or historical image that they’re trying to maintain, but it made no sense there. Not ritzy by any means, nothing of much historical value, no place any tourists would have any interest in. Just as nonsensical, they allowed in a local pizza chain and a couple of national clothing chains. People just spent their fast food money in the surrounding towns.

    Yeah, you should be able to regulate to some degree, but there should be a reason. I have yet to figure this one out.

    • tuscadero says:

      Gee, are you from Arlington, MA? That’s my town, we have a couple of Dunkin Donuts, because that’s the law, and a Papa Ginos, probably grandfathered in, but that’s pretty much it. I don’t think it’s because we’re historic, or a tourist destination, because we’re barely either. I do think it helps to foster small businesses. We have a ton of family owned or locally owned restaurants in town. I think the attention to zoning and setting the tone of what kind of town we’re going to be also protects property values. The downside is that the focus on these quality of life concerns really handicaps our tax base. There aren’t a lot of big stores or companies contributing to the town coffers which makes it a lot more expensive to own a home here.

      • brinks says:

        I was referring to Wilmington, MA, but DAMN. I was definitely talking about Papa Gino’s.

        Apparently it’s EXACTLY the same town?

  21. zandar says:

    All I can say is, I wish WE did in my location. Some of my favorite restaurants ever were mom and pop joints put out of business by the fast food conglomerates.

    • CookiePuss says:

      Same happened in the town I grew up in. A small Jersey shore town with all local shops, delis, pharmacies, etc. I moved out but revisited about 10 years later and the town was loaded with Dominos, CVS, Subway, 7-11, etc. and all the local shops were gone.

      The local pizza place was awesome. I’ll never understand how Dominos put them out of business. I guess their profit margin was so low that even if a small percentage of their customer base went with Dominos they would go under. Bleh.

      • Emerson7 says:

        People should not be given a choice because then they may not choose the correct social constructs based on the priorities of hipsters and rich kid socialist activists. People must be given only the one option that is deemed best for them by the enlightened class.

      • shepd says:

        It couldn’t possibly be because Domino’s had better service/taste/selection/speed/price/convenience/consistency for enough people (other than yourself) that they stopped going to the other place.

        The people at my work keep trying to take me to mom ‘n pop places. The food always tastes like ass, the drinks suck (I don’t drink beer, just diet coke, and these places just don’t sell enough of it to keep the fountain fresh), the service is often bombastic, parking non-existent, and prices excessive. The selection is usually limited and far too ostentatious for my tastes, plus it takes way too long to have lunch. Some of them don’t even take plastic!

        At least, for me, they’re consistent, though. Although I wish they’d be consistently good for a change (With one exception, which is the mom ‘n pop store *I* like that the rest of them wouldn’t dare to enter because it’s a ridiculously poorly maintained dive that hasn’t changed since they stopped walking up to customer’s cars).

        Give me Domino’s over the overblown mom ‘n pop pizza store in my city that keeps winning awards for their nasty whole grain pizza that cuts up my mouth. YECCCHH!

  22. Cosine says:

    I spend a fair bit of time in two towns on Vancouver Island that both block all large corporate holdings from opening outlets there and i cannot overstate how awesome it is to see towns that actually look like themselves and not just the exact same McDonald’s, Subway, Taco-Bell, Starbucks, Arby’s… maybe in a slightly different order than the town before…

    Both towns are FULL of interesting little mom and pop businesses supplying all kinds of interesting things, incredibly refreshing.

    As for the comments about this being only the will of those town council members who make up the majority, in both towns the citizens have voted in these measures many, many times are are extremely happy with the results. Towns full of businesses owned by locals that provide better product, better jobs and better wages than McDonald’s and their ilk.

  23. Jonesey says:

    Here’s a better way to do it. Require the chain to meet certain building aesthetic guidelines. For example in Santa Barbara your building needs to be painted a certain color with Spanish red tiled roofs. I have a feeling if a chain has to change their cookie-cutter building designs to fit in with community standards, it’ll probably balk and move on.

    • coren says:

      Nah, check out this here mcdonalds

      (all buildings in leavenworth – which is in washington state) look like they’re straight out of Bavaria.

      • neekap says:

        White Castle had to do something similar in a suburb here near Columbus, OH. Almost every one of their free-standing units looks like, well, a small, white castle. In Westerville, OH they had to make the building regular brick to comply with local aesthetics. The building looks pretty similar, just not the normal white color you expect to see.

      • Jonesey says:

        Well crap—nevermind then. That’s still a bit more aesthetically pleasing then a normal McDonalds—which I’m assuming would be the main objection (of many) of a chain popping up shop in an otherwise chainless community. I dunno—I can’t feel too sympathetic for McDonalds if they get denied access to an area like Door County or Alexandria.

        • Destron says:

          Even Walmart has taken to modifying it’s cookie cutter design to build in some areas. The recent Walmarts springing up around where I live look nothing like a Walmart, one of them looks line an elaborate mansion.

  24. d0x360 says:

    I dont see why they should. First off its more tax revenue for the town. If people want to eat fast food they will just drive a little farther to get it.

  25. Rachacha says:

    I can understand zoning regulations that indicate what the exterior of the building should look like, especially in historic areas. I understand zoning regulations that limit the size or type of exterior signage, and I can understand coning restrictions for certain types of establishments in close proximity to schools (For safety reasons you may want to limit fast food places within a certain radius of a school, so kids are not tempted to drive “off campus” to grab a quick breakfast or lunch, and perhaps you might want to avoid having an adult entertainment store or strip club near a school (too much temptation for the kids and too much of a hassle for the owners to keep the kids out), but a fast food joint/sandwich shop should all be treated equally. Perhaps if you wanted to make the town unique which might draw more people in to spend money, you might offer tax incentives to independent shops vs franchise/chain shops, but that does not prevent certain shops from opening their doors, it simply creates a PREFERENCE for one type of store over another.

  26. TouchMyMonkey says:

    Sure, you can open that McDonald’s here in our historic village, BUT we have strict sign and architecture ordinances you’ll have to comply with (so we’ll barely know you’re here), and you’ll have to pay village taxes, of course…

    Result: McDonald’s opens just outside the village limits. Downtown still looks like downtown, and everybody’s happy. That’s the way it usually works. That’s why there is no McDonald’s in Montpelier, VT, the only state capital without one. It’s also why the McD’s in Clinton, New York is where it is – about 100 feet from the village limit.

    You all should come to Clinton sometime. It’s beautiful. We like it that way. And we have no use for Starbucks.

    • NYGuy1976 says:

      Montpelier is also the smallest state capital. There are plenty of small towns in america of 9,000 people that don’t have any fast food.

    • Powerlurker says:

      In some places (i.e. New Jersey), there is no such thing as “outside the city limits” as every square inch of the state is part of an incorporated municipality. If it isn’t in your city/town/village/etc, it’s in the next town over.

  27. lain1k says:

    Think we need to work on American’s perception of fast food instead of banning the establishments. Work on putting up realistic pictures and reduce advertisements might be more effective.

  28. spazztastic says:

    Same applies to towns that ban Walmart, Target, and Home Depot?

  29. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    What? Fast Food illegal?



  30. ScottCh says:

    I live in a town that has more restrictive laws than most surrounding towns & cities in North Carolina. It doesn’t allow billboards, and it requires the shops and stores to have the same general appearance as the shopping centers around them. Many people around the area poke fun at our town, or express anger on local message forums.

    However, I think it’s just fine. Why does every town and city have to be the same? Why can’t communities have their own unique flavor? When I travel around the USA, I notice that almost every shopping center and mall has the same stores now. Many cities have only chain restaurants that exist from one coast to the other. What a bland part of the world we’ve created!

  31. netposer says:

    Why fast food? Because it’s unhealthy? Because it’s cheap? Because it’s a chain? Because of the bright signs?

    So a nice steak house is ok even though the food it serves has more calories and fat than a McDonald’s?

    Fascism always starts with “this is to help you and it’s good for the _____” and quickly snowballs into…well, you know…more gov’t control.

  32. peebozi says:

    these local politicians must be new…but don’t worry, they’ll find the benefit to having an enormous corporation buy their votes.

    this town will receive their fast food and the politicians will be bought off. it’s the way of the american corporatoocracy.

  33. captadam says:

    Eh. I’m a fan of zoning for particular land uses and types of buildings. Fast food restaurants that build in town have a tendency to take the land-hogging, vehicle-embracing suburban-strip model and plop it into the town. A Burger King down the street from me was placed at the edge of a residential neighborhood, and the developer just built it as it would have been built at a freeway interchange: the sidewalk stops abruptly, the parking lot opens into a big, wide paved entrance to the street, and the parking lot lights shine into the night. It’s ugly.

    Require a particular form of building to provide for visual unity and to allow pedestrians to use the sidewalks without getting mowed down by SUV drivers who want their Whopper fix. That’s more important to me than zoning out these types of restaurants completely.

  34. neekap says:

    Why would a city turn away a source of income? They’ll be able to collect on the property taxes and income taxes from the employees. If someone were to offer me a similar deal, I wouldn’t turn them away. Who here can say, “No thanks, I really have enough money already.”

    • NYGuy1976 says:

      Its not very uncommon for town boards in small towns to be paid off to keep out competition. At least in NY and NJ it is pretty common.

  35. backinpgh says:

    Having lived in the city of Detroit, where there are 6 or 7 fast food joints within a few blocks, but you have to drive 14 miles to get decent groceries, I think MORE towns should try to ban fast food places.

  36. slimeburg says:

    I live in Napa Valley and our town they don’t even allow chain places like chilis… the result..a burger that is half as good as a chilis burger costs 3x as much. you do get a cloth napkin but it is not worth the $30 burger.

  37. Razor512 says:

    stopping a business from opening is completely against what the country stands for.
    This is pretty much done to prevent competition and increase prices.

    Many small businesses complain about fast food places because they tend to charge lower prices and put them out of business. even if the food doesn’t taste as good.but what do you expect.
    Here in NY, there was a place that sole random lunch items, but the prices were crazy ($5-6 for a hamburger) A place that used to be a dunkin doughnuts got replaced by a burger king and the other business closed up shop within a month.

    Competition is good, so what it it puts people out of business, thats how the world is and it keep businesses in line. with out competition, the consumers lose the most.

    For example, I live in Queens NY and not many companies will open stores in lower income areas, so we tend to have very few stores. the grocery store near by charges about 2-3 times the normal retail price for most items. The owner of the store drives like a $80,000 car

    Many people in the area don’t have cars and cant travel to stores that are more reasonably priced. (in my family, we do all of our shopping by driving out to either a walmart or a costco)

    When there is a lack of competition, businesses will take advantage simply because it is profitable.

    Also not sure about other locations but should a 6 oz cup of yoplait yogurt cost $2.49 each? (and once in a while, go on sail for $1.79? even though driving out 5 miles you will see stores charging 2-3 for a dollar on sale and $1 normal price?

    Businesses take advantage when ever possible and it only hurts the people and the government. Every thing possible should be done to increase competition, not reduce it..

  38. vastrightwing says:

    My town has all kinds of strange laws about zoning. I talked to a selectman about them one day and found out that these crazy zoning laws were tactical to keep fast food and other undesirable businesses out of town. The problem? It also keeps many other businesses out of town as well. The laws don’t specifically mention fast food or McDonald’s, but this is why the laws were put there: too keep out the undesirables. Therefore, I would prefer the town simply said, we have an ordinance against all fast food chains or what ever instead of shrouding laws in strange parlance to keep out specific kinds of businesses.

  39. grapedog says:

    The small town I grew up in has a Subway and a Dunkin Donuts, everything else was locally owned/run. Some really great restaurants, video stores, bakeries, knickknack shops, all sorts of stuff, reasonably priced. Great little town, gone downhill now though, big chain supermarket, bunch of fast food places, video store closed down, as did many of the local restaurants and shop as big box started moving in at the edges.

    Glad I don’t live there anymore…

  40. alienaa says:

    Anything that contributes to the tax base should be allowed. Yes this includes unpopular things like porn stores.

  41. Lel says:

    With a note to Sister Bay, Wisconsin — that’s in Door County (the thumb of Wisconsin’s mitten, if you will, the peninsula sticking into Lake Michigan) which is largely tourist/vacation area. I could be wrong but I think there’s no or very little formula restaurants in all of Door County. Eating there can be expensive but it’s a mix of Chicago money and northern Wisconsin, meaning you’ll have your higher class restaurants and your fried food/burgers/beer tavern in the same block. I love it up there, really refreshing not to have it all be locally operated.

  42. Difdi says:

    When it comes to legal rights, you can’t “vote someone off the island”.

  43. Groanan says:

    1. Slow sit-down restaurants have the same if not more calories in their meals (which are often larger).
    2. Allowing the will of the majority to dictate the diet for everyone is an absolutely horrible un-American idea. There is nothing worse for the minority than the tyranny of the majority.
    3. This hatred against fast food is a fad, an excuse, a scape goat for why there are many overweight Americans. Where is the ban on computer chairs? We all know television, and now the computer, is why we are burning less calories as a nation anymore.
    4. There is nothing wrong with being fat, and being fat or skinny is a personal decision (combined with a genetic predisposition) that you cannot legislate.

  44. Hungry Dog says:

    Some cities in Mississippi pull that crap. It’s always a church group complaining about the restaurant serving alcohol and as a result is everyone is moving away or shopping at the more developed towns.

  45. NYGuy1976 says:

    Doesnt the market typically dictate anyway what businesses operate where. There is a reason payday loan stores don’t operate in towns like Darien CT. Its not that they are not allowed, there is no market in places like that for them. If fast food places want to operate in places where this is no market for them, they will close due to no business. Let the residents decide with their spending if they are not wanted.

  46. Odin Zifer says:

    I have lived in a town where there is a small area where bisness were not allow to rebuild. This made a street of ~20 house/restaurant that are the best places to eat in the entire town. Every one different and better then the last.
    The only bad part is parking (it’s a collage town but that also keeps the prices down.)

  47. PsiCop says:

    IANAL but I have been an elected zoning official in my hometown. Zoning regulations have been ruled constitutional, however, some zoning provisions lurk at the edge of what’s permissible … and some go beyond it.

    As I understand it, writing zoning codes to keep out certain types of businesses, based on arbitrary and ill-defined criteria, is not something that would usually be upheld. (Yes, we all think we know what a “fast food” place is, but try codifying that without naming a fast-food chain, and you will see what I mean about the distinction being “arbitrary” abd “ill-defined.)

    As for “formula restaurants” … I can think of lots of individually-owned-and-operated non-chain restaurants that follow “formulas.”

  48. jurupa says:

    Cities should only do this IF the people of the city VOTE for such a thing. Imposing such “regulations” is very dictatorship like.

    • Groanan says:

      So they should just get to vote what is allowed in the town and what isn’t?

      The people who own the land have a property right in it, if they want to sell their land to McDonalds they should be allowed to do so. If McDonalds wants to sell burgers on their land, and there is no health or environmental problem, they should be allowed to do so.

      You should not be able to vote away other people’s property rights.

  49. Benedictum says:

    I’d like to tell you a story. This story is about Jim (real name redacted).

    Jim was a very good friend of mine growing up in a very small arizona town. Jim ran the hobby/trophy/engraving store. He was a really kind and very polite man who worked with the towns kids, sponsored a little league team, and was in general, an upstanding pillar of the community.

    Now the town started changing, gaining more folks because land was cheap and the town was “quaint” and “picturesque” and the wildlife in the area were prolific without being pests (like raccoons, bear, or deers). We started getting lots of fast food joints moving in, and they were crowding out the existing mom and pops. I’m not going to lie and state that the mom and pops had better food, in some places they did, some they didn’t. But the townsfolk as a whole decided that they didn’t want fast food and chain restaurants cluttering up their quaint town. So they went all zoning happy trying to restrict it out.

    Now Jim, he was very similar to a lot of commenters on here. He felt it was unamerican to block these businesses. He was adamant they should have their right to move in wherever they pleased and so he took it on himself to campaign and get rid of the zoning laws that prevented them coming in. He crusdaded all through town, talking folks into joining his cause. He appeared on radio and the local cable access channel, attended town meetings, and made a general nuissance of himself and managed to convince enough people to overturn the zoning regulations that finally they were overturned.

    Bunch of fast food restaurants came in, in a great long strip parallell to the highway. Now when folks drove into or through the town instead of seeing the quaint picturesque colonial houses and the generations old mom and pop shops and the beautiful wildlife, they saw a straight row of fast food restaurants, taller and more gaudy than anything around them. More and more folks moved in, town got bigger, lost its aesthetics. Soon the folks who didn’t care outnumbered the ones who did, more fast food joints came along, other big business, and soon the town was a thriving bustling city just like anywhere else in America. “Just. Like. Anywhere. Else.” It looked and acted and sounded and smelt and felt exactly the same as any other 10-20,000 person town anywhere in the country.

    Jim meanwhile was having a good time. Business was gangbusters. The improved population with ready cash to spend and less discerning tastes meant he could lower prices and still sell enough product to make a living. The lower his prices, the more product he sold. Soon he was making almost twice what he used to and selling for 75% of what he used to pricewise.

    Then walmart moved in up the road a bit.

    Overnight Jim’s business was cut in half. No one wanted to go buy a model kit from him for $10 when Walmart sold it for $5. Sure the walmart kits were a lil cheaper, not quite the quality, and walmart didn’t have nearly the selection that Jim did, but they had what was popular and they had a lot of it.

    Jim took to campaigning again to try and strike up support to get walmart forced out of town. He talked passionately to his neighbors about the values of small town america, the importance of mom and pop businesses, the strength of cultural identity and heritage in towns such as ours. He spoke with town councilman and zoning committee members at length about the “urban blight” that had descended on the town and how businesses such as walmart were eye-sores that blotted out the landscape, obscured homes, and prevented folks from viewing the scenery and wildlife.

    But the town council turned a deaf ear and his neighbors turned a blind eye on Jim. They didn’t care about Jim’s business, or his opinions, or his arguments, no matter how logical or impassioned they were. They cared that walmart was having a buy one get one sale and arby’s had roast beef 5 for $5. They didnt care if the wildlife had to be moved to accomodate the parking lots, because they were getting a costco.

    In short, a small, close knight, active and thriving community with a strong identity and aesthetic was turned, over the course of about 10 years, into another bustling, rude, impolite, american suburban sprawl. The people became hard hearted and jaded and didn’t care any more about their neighbors or the way the town looked. They just cared about the all important god of commerce.

    The moral of my story isn’t that fast food destroys towns. The moral of my story is that cultural uniqueness is part of what makes america great, its part of what makes america america, and when you start letting big business of any kind in, whether is franchises, chains, or corporations, you start to cheapen and deaden that uniqueness anywhere. Then those businesses in turn serve as a draw to outsiders who don’t identify with your towns culture and they further dillute it until your town is no more recognizable than any other town. And every single person who talks about how these business should have a right to build, or that its a slippery slope to fascism, etc, are just another Jim waiting to happen. Even if they aren’t a proud independent business person, even if they WORK for one of these big corporations, they will find that when an even bigger corporation comes in and forces their store to close that they are impacted, and too late will they cry out for restrictions and limits.

    Jims gets supplanted by kmart gets supplanted by walmart gets supplanted by costco gets supplanted by nextbigbusiness2.0.

    Unless you take a stand for yourself and your community, you only contribute to the continuing mediocrity of suburban america. It was once said that for evil to exist, it is enough that good men do nothing.

    • Groanan says:

      You do not own your community.
      America is the land of the free.
      If you really want stability join a very restrictive HOA, otherwise, learn to adapt and survive.
      If you cannot compete it is because you are inferior (or someone is cheating), take a hint and find another avenue to exploit (or sue your competitors for unfair competition, etc.).

      • Groanan says:

        By “you do not own your community” I mean you only own the land you own, not your neighbor’s land.

        If your neighbor wants to sell his land, the land he owns, you should not be able to stop him. That is his property, he owns it, and transfer is a very important property right.

        If Walmart is the one wanting to purchase, and they are offering more than someone else, who are you to tell them that they can’t do so?

        And once Walmart owns the land, who are you to tell them what they can or cannot do on it?

        Does Walmart go to your home and tell you what you can do there?

    • PsiCop says:

      The scenario you paint is one that’s played out in various forms around the country. The trouble with it is, that while it’s great to advocate for “cultural uniqueness,” that’s not something that can be identified readily, and its borders can blur. It’s those blurry borders that make it impossible to actually enforce this.

      I’ve been on a zoning board and I know how these decisions are made. I also know how murky it all can get. Everyone THINKS s/he knows what a “fast food” place is, or what a “big box” store is, and most folks don’t want either of them anywhere near them. The trouble is that neither of these things is easy to define except by naming an existing “fast food” or “big box” store chain. (And no, you CANNOT write zoning regs that contain a list of names of specific businesses that cannot locate in your town … that’s called “targeted zoning” and would NOT withstand court scrutiny.)

      Say someone wants to build a hot dog stand. By some legal definitions, that’s “fast food” (limited menu, little or no seating with no wait staff, relatively quick service, transient traffic, etc.). But a lone proprietor’s hot dog stand is NOT a McDonalds or Burger King or a KFC, and most folks who oppose “fast food” places would not object to one. It’s easy for zoning regs intended to block McDonalds, also to block a hot dog stand, though.

      Really, it’s not as easy as you think to block certain businesses from moving into a community. At best all you can do is continually revise your zoning ordinances to get one step ahead of the next application. And that kind of a game is NOT good for a community; convoluted and overly-complex zoning doesn’t help anyone, mainly by making it hard for people to know what can and can’t be done with their property. This has the effect of lowering (not raising) property values.

      So everyone that thinks it’s a good idea to “keep up the value of property” by repeatedly implementing zoning changes intended to make this happen … eventually it will have the opposite effect. Count on it.

  50. powervator says:

    In the UK McDonalds was granted permission to open in places in certain restricted zoned areas but they had to totally change their decor to green and gold colours and they weren’t allowed to show their full name outside the place.

  51. donovanr says:

    In Bermuda they passed a wonderful law like this right after a KFC moved in. This KFC has something like 29 varieties of fried chicken. Odd. But the only other one to slip by was a McDonald’s on the old US Millitary base. After the base shut down the McD’s shut down as well.
    I really like this when I visit Bermuda even though the result has not been the flourishing of a bunch of high quality mom and pop places. If anything finding something good to eat in Bermuda is hard. Bermudan’s might argue this point but I can assure you that my visitor tastes are very different from local tastes.

    What I do like is that the island has not been turned into a plastic island copy of the US. I don’t go to Bermuda because it is a place that makes me smile. I suspect the effect of fast food chains is not at all positive but that the negatives are more subtle. With their massive marketing efforts they displace the mom and pop places that while not necessarily better are different and more local in so many ways. The chains also tend to create a sense of bland banality that degrades the enjoyment of life. The employees are cogs. The suppliers are cogs. Even the owners are just cogs. Yet they desperately try to indoctrinate their employees that serving up a fries with a burger is somehow the pinnacle of life. This cheapens life.
    You could probably list a hundred reasons why fast food places are good like clean bathrooms but I can list killer points like many mom an pop places buy local, certainly far more than any chain would.
    If I were moving to a new area and one of the towns had banned all the crap chains and things like dollar stores and payday loan places I would give it a first serious look before its neighbors. Some people wouldn’t like this and I would be glad to not have them for neigbors.

  52. varro says:

    Portland blocked a McDonald’s from opening up on Hawthorne Blvd. (formerly hippie, now yuppie street).

    It now has an expensive condo or apartment complex with a healthy Cold Stone Creamery on the ground floor.

  53. coold8 says:

    Wow, as this conversation really happened in America? Have we really got to the point where we could actually consider arguing this? If you don’t want it in your town, then don’t go there. Do you remember the good ol’ days? Any business could open and if the town didn’t like it they wouldn’t go there? In this economy you should be picking and choosing.

  54. soj4life says:

    towns should have the ability to keep types of businesses out that they do not want in their town. what is the point of zoning boards if anyone can build, wherever?