Old Town Alexandria, prepare to meet Taco Bell Cantina.
Alexandria City Council on Saturday unanimously approved an application to bring the fusion of Taco Bell and alcohol to 417 King St. It will be the first Taco Bell Cantina in Greater Washington.
In approving it, the council rejected the testimony of several Old Town residents who argued that Taco Bell isn't "desirable" and would lead to litter on residential streets, less available parking and drunks stumbling through the neighborhood.
Instead, council members generally agreed with Cathy Puskar of Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh PC, Taco Bell's local land use attorney, who said Old Town needs a mix of large and small businesses and "expensive and affordable restaurants."
"This is going to be probably one of the only food opportunities for anyone here late at night," said Councilman John Chapman.
Taco Bell Cantina, with 52 seats inside and 20 outside, will be open from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Outdoor dining, which will face King Street, will close by 11 p.m. — two hours earlier than Taco Bell sought in its application, but Puskar said the chain was willing to clear the outside seats earlier as long as the inside could remain open until 2 a.m.
Taco Bell Corp., a subsidiary of Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM), has opened about a dozen Taco Bell Cantina locations, with plans to open 300 over the next five years. The restaurants feature traditional Taco Bell fare (welcome back, Naked Egg Taco) in addition to beer, wine and "twisted freezes." They have no drive-thru, and are typically in more urban settings.
Fewer than six people testified against the application. One gentleman railed against disposable tableware and said, "We just don't want that in Old Town." Another said that Alexandria's goal of having a unique waterfront district is not advanced by Taco Bell.
By Michael Neibauer
March 18, 2018
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