October 16, 2020 , 4:12 am

Watermelon Music space ready to see Fast-Food Chain soon

A Louisiana-based fast-food chain specializing in chicken fingers wants to open a restaurant in the downtown building previously occupied by Watermelon Music.

Raising Cane’s is seeking Planning Commission approval on Wednesday of a conditional use permit to convert 4,000 square-feet of the existing ground-floor retail space at 207 E St. into a new restaurant.

City zoning code requires a conditional use permit for formula fast-food restaurants in the central commercial zoning district.

As city staff note in the report prepared for Wednesday’s meeting, “the primary issues related to formula fast-food restaurants are the general concern about standardization and corporate requirements and the more specific concern about waste.”

Founded in 1996, Raising Cane’s has around 500 outlets across the country with a menu consisting primarily of chicken fingers, chicken sandwiches, fries and toast.

Proposed hours for the Davis location would be 9 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

The restaurant expects to employ about 16 people.

“The applicant notes that the demographics of their clientele draws from a wide range of ages and is not limited to college students,” according to the staff report.

“They expressed their eagerness to fill a downtown space that has been vacant since 2016 and to help reenergize the site. The applicant feels that they have something different to offer and can benefit the community.”

The property in question is owned by the Browman Development Company, which purchased the building along with a number of other downtown properties from the Brinley family in early 2016.

Watermelon Music had occupied the space for many years but relocated to West Davis not long after Browman purchased the property.

In an op-ed published in the Enterprise at the time, Watermelon owner Jeff Simons expressed concern that “our funky, independent downtown” might be lost following Browman’s purchase of the Brinley properties.

Browman, according to the staff report prepared for the Planning Commission, believes “Raising Cane’s is a good fit and a good tenant for the building.”

The Downtown Davis Business Association has no objections to Raising Cane’s occupying that space, according to a letter to the city from executive director Brett Maresca.

Maresca said the chain’s “focused/specialized menu” does not directly compete with many downtown restaurants and the proposed “Davis decor” theme that Raising Cane’s committed to would keep the restaurant from being “another generically corporate branded fast food restaurant in the heart of our downtown.”

City staff noted concerns among community members about the proliferation of restaurants and loss of retail businesses in downtown and said, “to some degree, Raising Cane’s would contribute to this.

“However, it is not an issue specific to formula fast food. It is an ongoing issue with roots in larger economic and retail trends.

“This building has been vacant since 2016,” the report noted.

The Planning Commission on Wednesday will be asked to determine the project is exempt from further environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act and approve the planning application.

Wednesday’s meeting, which begins at 7 p.m., will be held remotely and is accessible the following ways:

* Televised live on city of Davis Government Channel 16 (available to those who subscribe to cable television);
* Livestreamed online at https://cityofdavis.org/city-hall/city-council/city-council-meetings/meeting-videos
* Via Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/93549715650

Tags
Brinley family
Business Association
Planning Commission
restaurants
Watermelon

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