St. Pete council votes against Dunkin Donuts drive-thru proposal

- A fight brewed over a proposal to bring a large coffee chain with a drive-thru to downtown St. Pete.

Wednesday, local business owners and resident packed into City Hall to urge city leaders to say no. The proposal was aimed at putting a Dunkin Donuts in the old Verizon building at the corner of 1st Avenue North and MLK.

Ultimately, it was a unanimous "no" from the Development Review Commission. The vote was not against bringing Dunkin Donuts to this location, but rather, on converting the commercial building into a restaurant with a drive-thru.

During the meeting, Jonathan Moore, President of Acquisition Consultants and owner of the property, stated his case, saying he'd tried for months to get a local business to move in.

"National in and of itself isn't something bad," Moore said. "All I would suggest, it needs to be in an appropriate spot."

Moore initially suggested delaying the public comment and vote so he could meet with members of the community. But, with a room filled people ready to speak, the suggestion was not accepted.

One by one, people walked up to the microphone. Every single person spoke against the proposal.

"A drive thru on that very busy already 1st Avenue North will be crazy," said Deana Hawk, owner of Black Crow Coffee. "The thing that really worries me is what kind of precedent this is going to set for future businesses."

Barbara Voglewede, Executive Director of EDGE Business District Association said she worried about  "The high level of noise odor trash all produced by this particular type of property usage."

"Please don't 'Fort Lauderdale' St. Petersburg," said Sarah Arrazola, founder of St. Pete Ferments.

The Commission kept its discussion focused on the drive-thru, not the business inside.

"There's just... there's just issues with it," said Matt Walker of Development Review Commission. "It really boils down to the amount of stacking and there is really only one exit point and that exit point conflicts with that stacking."

Ultimately, the meeting ended with 7 votes against the proposal and a crowd with a huge sense of relief.

"Definitely relieved about that," said Mimi Reilly, owner of Star Booty Salon. "A Dunkin Donuts, yeah that's still obnoxious, but without the drive-thru, a little bit less. I think people will stand up now. I think more people will start standing up and pushing the city in a different direction."

It's a small victory for the business owners. While it means a drive-thru won't be built there, it doesn't mean the building won't eventually become home to a national chain or company. Moore promised, that, regardless of Wednesday's decision, he'd be signing a lease with someone the next day. We reached out to him to find out who that might be, but have not heard back.

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