A new Chick-Fil-A in Florida broke a promise — and there was a showdown over safety
Chicken sandwich lovers are rejoicing over Chick-Fil-A’s Thursday opening, but Bradenton officials aren’t happy about it.
The long-awaited dining addition has city officials fuming after the company failed to install the traffic improvements it promised along 43rd Street West.
On Wednesday, Bradenton City Council briefly considered stepping in to block the restaurant from opening, citing traffic concerns.
When the city approved the Chick-Fil-A in October 2021, officials said they would require the company to complete certain off-site improvements. One of those improvements is a new “traffic deceleration” lane that would allow for a southbound dedicated right turn onto the property at 4311 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.
In a statement provided to the Bradenton Herald Thursday afternoon, Chick-Fil-A said the lane could not be installed while they awaited permits from the county and state.
“We are eager to start the project but are still waiting to receive all necessary permits. We deeply value our relationship with local city officials and are sorry for any misunderstanding,” Chick-Fil-A said. “We are currently working with contractors to start work on the phases of the project that have been permitted.”
Mayor Gene Brown, who owns and operates a funeral home just south of the new Chick-Fil-A, said he has been asking about the required traffic improvements “for months.”
Brown proposed two options — blocking the restaurant from opening until Chick-Fil-A agrees to install the traffic improvements or allowing Thursday’s opening to go on as planned.
Chick-Fil-A’s drive-thru lanes have been designed to hold up to 52 cars, but vehicles will almost certainly back up onto the street for the popular restaurant’s debut.
“It’s a no-win situation for us,” Brown said.
Bradenton considered blocking Chick-Fil-A debut
Other council members said they were “very disappointed” in Chick-Fil-A for casting the city’s transportation safety needs aside. Even before city officials approved it, they expressed serious concern about how the restaurant would affect traffic on Manatee Avenue and 43rd Street West.
“My vote to allow them to do this was predicated on the fact that they were going to do these improvements in that area — at least the deceleration lane,” said Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey. “They have not held up their end of the bargain.”
“I believed Chick-Fil-A to be honorable and do what they were promising, so I’m very disappointed,” added Councilwoman Jayne Kocher. “Public safety has to be first.”
Manatee County Government has also announced plans to renovate the entire Manatee Avenue and 43rd Street West intersection, but that $3.3 million project is still at least a year away from being completed, according to the latest version of the county’s Capital Improvement Plan.
Traffic upgrades are still on the way
Speaking with the Bradenton Herald on Wednesday afternoon, City Administrator Rob Perry said he issued a temporary certificate of occupancy that allowed the Chick-Fil-A restaurant to open Thursday. The temporary permit also requires the restaurant to enter an agreement with county officials on traffic improvements by June 3.
Because 43rd Street West is a county-owned road, county officials have to be involved in the permitting process.
“It’s basically taking out the new sidewalk that’s in there now. They’ll have to remove the landscaping and all that to install a traffic lane,” said Perry. “It’s not a minor undertaking.”
City officials hope Chick-Fil-A can install that lane, which should allow traffic to continue flowing to the south on 43rd Street West, by the time the students return from summer break on Aug. 10. Jessie P. Miller Elementary School is across the street from Chick-Fil-A.
City Attorney Scott Rudacille said he spoke Wednesday with a Chick-Fil-A representative who confirmed that the company’s contractor will have the construction done by then.
If the deceleration lane has not been installed by mid-August, Perry said the city is prepared to “explore all of our options.”
“This is not a mushroom patch that popped up overnight,” Perry said. “It was a requirement that the corporate office has known about and did not build it as they said it would be built.”
Bradenton’s approval of the Chick-Fil-A restaurant allows city officials to monitor the traffic flow situation and mandate certain changes, such as requiring police officers to direct traffic or closing off access points that cause traffic congestion problems.