Sonic Drive-Thru is off the menu in Hempstead

A proposed Sonic Drive-In restaurant on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow has been taken off the menu.

The Hempstead Town Board of Zoning Appeals turned down the planning application on March 16, which would have seen the proposed Sonic take over the location previously occupied by Rita’s Ices in the parking lot of the East Meadow Plaza.

The proposal, which included 24 parking spots, a drive-thru and a patio for customers, had drawn spirited debate in the community.

“Having [Sonic] on Hempstead Turnpike is especially problematic because the traffic will only increase,” said East Meadow resident Linda Liu, 19, a sophomore at Hofstra University. “The turnpike is the way to get around to a lot of places, and this could be disruptive.”

The proposed venue of a new Sonic drive-in restaurant would take the place of the former Rita's Ices location in East Meadow Plaza (LIR Photo by Brianna Borresen)

The proposed venue of a new Sonic drive-in restaurant would take the place of the former Rita's Ices location in East Meadow Plaza (LIR Photo by Brianna Borresen)

The size of the potential Sonic parking lot was a tipping point for East Meadow residents opposed to the restaurant.

“The lot in question is absolutely not big enough for a Sonic,” said Kim Asdahl, 19, a freshman at Farmingdale State College and East Meadow resident. “As it is, that lot is tight enough. The last thing it needs is the influx of cars that Sonic will undoubtedly bring.”

Safety concerns

Sonic had planned to employ the same traffic control method they executed during the opening of their North Babylon location in summer 2011, according to Bob Fanelli, a media relations representative for Sonic.

“Security will be on hand to direct vehicles in a safe manner so as not to interfere with the regular flow of traffic,” Fanelli said. “In North Babylon, security was around until the early winter, directing the surplus traffic onto the shoulder of Deer Park Road in order to acquaint the community with our restaurant’s drive-thru procedure.”

Sonic’s effect on the community

The North Babylon location also employed cleaning crews to collect garbage around the immediate residential area in an effort to keep community unrest at a minimum.

The on-going effort to work with the community, however, extends beyond simply waste collection. Since the location’s opening, the North Babylon Sonic has donated to 12 local charities and has provided school supplies to Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Wyandanch.

“We are excited for the opportunity to enter a partnership with East Meadow,” Fanelli said.

Thoughts from local businesses

Some surrounding businesses in the East Meadow Plaza—though initially wary— had embraced the idea of their potential new neighbor.

“The Sonic is a great idea,” said Sheila Maramag, a manager of Modell’s Sporting Goods in East Meadow Plaza. “It would bring a lot of business to our area. The parking situation may be troublesome, but the good it has the potential to do outweighs the negatives.”

As for the other eateries in the plaza, which include Frantoni’s Pizzeria and Pita Lovers, Maramag said she was confident that the fast food drive-in wouldn’t deter customers from these establishments.

However, these restaurants won’t have to worry about losing business, since the Sonic plans fell through.

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