Sporting a blaze-yellow caution vest, George Blumenschein approaches the dozens of parking rogues the same way he does everything: with a quick smile.
He’s courteous, at least at first, and so are the dozens of Chick-fil-A customers who break protocol every day at 220 S. Broadway. Most of them offer to go back to their cars and find another spot. That won’t be necessary, Blumenschein says, just keep it in mind next time.
Of course, there are exceptions.
“I’ve been cussed at and pissed off and honked at ... but what can I do?” Blumenschein said. “Somebody told me to have intercourse with my mother. So, you know? But I’ve been in retail so long I don’t really care.”
The Chick-fil-A on Broadway is Boise’s first off-campus location. As soon as it opened in October, the Georgia-based fast-food restaurant with a following that borders on cultish became a magnet for long lines and overflow parking. It’s common for the line of cars at the drive-thru to back up onto Broadway, and sometimes it even wraps around to ParkCenter Boulevard south of the restaurant, Blumenschein said.
So it’s not surprising that Chick-fil-A customers would park next door when the restaurant’s 39 spaces are filled. They’re allowed to park in the Courtyard by Marriott hotel lot to the east, but Blumenschein doesn’t want them taking up spaces reserved for customers at his restaurant and the nearby Carl’s Jr.
A year ago, when Boise’s Planning and Zoning Commission was considering the Chick-fil-A application, Blumenschein predicted that overflow parking would be a problem. He told commissioners that Boise State University events, combined with peak volume at the three restaurants, could cause so much traffic it would be like “the Rose Bowl Parade in my parking lot.”
City planner David Moser said at the same hearing that Chick-fil-A’s parking would be plentiful enough to prevent overflow into neighboring lots. Commissioners agreed and unanimously approved the application. Two months later, the City Council denied an appeal.
Blumenschein believes that the city was too concerned with seeing the lot developed and didn’t plan for it effectively.
“When you’re bringing this much tax revenue and, not only that, when you bring this nice of a building, not to knock the City Council, but they were so giddy it was like a little girl at a school dance,” he said.
That’s not true, said Hal Simmons, Boise’s planning director. In fact, Simmons said, it was the city that requested Chick-fil-A locate the project’s most controversial feature, its drive-thru, behind the restaurant, instead of between the building and Broadway, as the company had originally planned. That moved the building closer to the street, a configuration city planners preferred, Simmons said.
“I’m not sure that we gave anything away on this,” Simmons said.
Blumenschein’s issues aren’t with Chick-fil-A. Nor do the people who run Chick-fil-A have any hostility toward him, store manager Bryan Gillespie said. Blumenschein is within his rights to object to improper use of his lot, Gillespie said.
“We get along great. It’s just they have their space and we have ours and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.
Blumenschein hopes his chats with Chick-fil-A customers spur them to complain to the restaurant and the city.
He suggests an overhaul of all three restaurants’ parking areas that would maximize the number of spots. To accomplish this, he would remove landscaped islands in the parking area, move Chick-fil-A’s Dumpster, and allow customers of any restaurant to park anywhere in the overall space.
There’s no reason that couldn’t happen, if the restaurant owners agreed on a plan, said Sarah Schafer, the city’s design review and historic preservation manager.
Gillespie said that decision’s above his head, so he couldn’t say how receptive Chick-fil-A would be.
“I’ve been with the company for 10 years and I’ve never heard of that happening,” he said.
Sven Berg: 377-6275