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Chick-fil-A may expand drive-thru at east Vancouver location

Double lanes considered at busy fast-food restaurant; adjoining business would be impacted

By , Columbian business reporter
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Customers try to find parking in the crowded Chick-fil-A parking lot on Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard in November 2016. The company recently submitted a preliminary application to expand its drive-thru capacity.
Customers try to find parking in the crowded Chick-fil-A parking lot on Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard in November 2016. The company recently submitted a preliminary application to expand its drive-thru capacity. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

The Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurant in east Vancouver’s Bennington neighborhood might expand its drive-thru capacity, according to a pre-application packet submitted to the city.

The restaurant at the northeast corner of Southeast 164th Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard was the franchise’s first location in Clark County, and its opening day in 2016 drew large crowds. It’s still crowded with people craving chicken sandwiches.

The proposed project would lengthen a segment of the existing drive-thru along the north side of the property and widen it to two lanes with a combined “stacking space” for about 24 vehicles. The two lanes would merge after passing the ordering kiosks, leaving the remainder of the drive-thru unchanged.

A second Chick-fil-A opened earlier this year in a satellite building at Vancouver Mall, and its drive-thru features a two-lane section similar to the one described in the pre-app. Both franchises are owned by John Dombroski.

Chick-fil-A declined to comment.

The project, if it moves forward, would require reconfiguring and expanding the parking lot eastward to make room for the new doubled section. According to a site diagram submitted with the packet, the project would need to remove an old house at the east end of the parking lot that is home to an interior design center called Home Concepts.

That building’s owner, real estate agent Terrie Cox, said earlier this week that Chick-fil-A had reached out to her but that she has put “a lot of blood, sweat and tears into that building,” and would be reluctant to see it razed due to its historical nature.

“They wrote a letter of intent but I have not accepted anything, and I will not accept where we’re at,” she said.

Cox also expressed frustration with what she described as a recurring pattern of Chick-fil-A customers taking her business’s parking spaces at the eastern end of the lot.

Clark County property records show that the Home Concepts property also includes part of the Chick-fil-A parking lot. Cox sold the fast-food company an easement for that portion in 2016, but she said Chick-fil-A customers have “monopolized” the parking despite early assurances that disruption would be minimal.

Chick-fil-A’s wild popularity led to a parking lot crunch when the east Vancouver location debuted. A Columbian story published about six weeks after the grand opening reported that the parking lot remained routinely snarled even after traffic died down from opening day.

Cox and an assistant manager at the Mexican restaurant Catedral Tapatia — which is located to the north of the Chick-fil-A and has a connected parking lot — both said at the time that the heavy traffic had caused headaches for their businesses.

Vancouver public works streets and transportation manager Ryan Lopossa said the city saw backups onto Mill Plain Boulevard and 164th Avenue when the restaurant opened. When the problem persisted, the city reached out to Chick-fil-A and said the restaurant needed to find a way to mitigate the traffic jam.

The restaurant apparently succeeded — Lopossa said the city hasn’t observed major backups or received any complaints since. Like many fast-food chains, Chick-fil-A closed its dining rooms at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and has seen an explosion of drive-thru traffic.

A February story in Business Insider reported that Chick-fil-A locations have faced record-long drive-thru lines during the pandemic, and chronicled some of the steps that the chain is taking to try to manage the deluge of business, including sending staff with tablets to take orders from cars waiting in line and installing tents and canopies to protect them from the elements.

Aerial photos taken by Clark County in late summer 2020 show that the east Vancouver Chick-fil-A had by that point added a tent in the parking lot outside the entrance to the drive-thru lane, which appeared to be configured to create waiting space for two lanes of cars.

Columbian business reporter