Saying No to Drive-thrus and Yes to neighborhoods


Does Boulder need another drive-thru restaurant? In particular, does it need one with double drive-thru lanes?

Here at Community Cycles, we say no. That’s why we’ve been leading opposition to a planned Raising Cane’s chicken-finger fast-food restaurant with two drive-thru lanes that would nearly encircle the entire building, proposed for the site of the former Ali Baba’s restaurant on 28th St. And this month, Boulder’s Planning Board agreed with us, unanimously voting to deny the application as proposed.

This is a small but meaningful victory in the long-term effort to make Boulder safer and friendlier for people walking and biking, and to move away from car-centric design.

In general, drive-thrus – quite obviously – promote driving. They cause pollution from idling cars. They require a lot of heat-absorbing and rain-repelling pavement. They encourage distracted driving (if you haven’t seen someone try to drive with one elbow while juggling fries and the ketchup, you’re lucky). And they favor non-local chain restaurants over the locally-owned.

All of those factors were in play with the proposal from Raising Cane’s, a Louisiana-based chain with around 600 locations in the US and Middle East that’s been trying to expand in Colorado. More important to the legal process, Planning Board found that the proposed design would not meet the standard of “provides direct service or convenience to or reduces adverse impacts to the surrounding uses or neighborhood”, as required by the review process. In addition, the Board found that it did not meet specific requirements regarding curb cuts and parking.

City Council could, in theory, overturn Planning Board’s decision, but that is extremely unlikely.

Community Cycles is proud to have led the way in stopping this proposal that was so antithetical to Boulder’s values. But the overall process was not a good use of time for the applicant, city staff, advocates, or the Planning Board. To avoid this in the future, we should better align the governing code with our values. Is the next step to raise the bar for new drive-thrus, to make it clearer that as a city we discourage them? Or perhaps to prohibit new drive-thrus altogether? Let us know what you think.