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Downtown News Writes About Fast Food

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, September 05, 2006, at 10:40AM

I didn't even have to open the Downtown News this weekend to read their piece titled "When Fast Food Leaves," seeing as it ran above-the-fold. It's an article on the twin closings of McDonalds and Burger King at 7th and Flower.

I had several different reactions to the piece: a) a little deja-vu, b) whether this is good or bad for the Downtown market, it doesn't seem good to me, and c) the Downtown News might want to check some of its facts.

Deja-Vu

These closures and the larger picture of Downtown food options are topics that interests me, and ones that I wrote about three weeks ago. Before that a similar topic ran on July 7th when Burger King shut its doors.

The Downtown News piece opens with a trio of opinion snapshots.

"It's the new health-focused higher-end population of Downtown," economic experts opined.

"It's the resurgence of Seventh Street," city officials gloated.

"It's corporate America," said one passerby wondering why her McDonald's was suddenly gone.

I feel like I've heard those sort of opinions before...

Back in July green la girl commented that

If they are indeed leaving, it's prolly good news for your arteries

Joel C wrote:

Up until recently, joints like BK and McDo have benefitted from a lack of competition, due to chains being afraid of the area. But now that other food places are opening (incl. Subway, Pucks, Qdoba, etc.), the owners of that BK and McDo are realizing they're not the only kids on the block anymore.

Now, I'm not at all accusing the Downtown News of borrowing material. But it does seem a bit odd that a piece which opens by saying that "more than a few people took notice" of the closings would spare mention of the prominent discussion we've had here.

Good or Bad for Downtown?

A lot of discussion in the article focuses on what these closures and their imminent upscale replacements mean for Downtown. Pushing out the low-end eateries is seen as a good thing, with mid-range options considered a sign of Downtown health.

Well, that's nice for the BID and for property owners, but as an office-worker who wants a quick, cheap lunch I have to say I can't quite agree. While I may enjoy Qdoba and Camille's more than I do McD's and BK, somehow I found myself eating at the latter two just as often. Where I could walk out of those two with food and a drink for $5 or $6, the more mid-range choices will run me $8 - $12 and take longer to get in and out.

The other essential question is that of hours. From Kathleen's article:

The new downtown population needs restaurants to stay open later, and preferably locations that include bars, [retail property advisor Derrick] Moore said. With the recent residential boom focusing on residential as opposed to just offices, the full-time crowd needs full-time fare.

There's a distinct problem with that argument: the new mid-range Downtown options to date haven't met that criteria. Burger King and McDonalds both stayed open until 9 or 10PM and were open on weekends. The new Wolfgang Puck Express, touted in the piece as a "good example of the push for mid-level fare" never had Sunday hours and seems to have dumped Saturday as well. My previous examples of Qdoba and Camille's both shut down several hours earlier in the evening than their "low-end" counterparts. If I want non sit-down food at 10pm my only options are Subway, McDonalds (7th/Hill), KFC and Carl's Jr. (both 7th/Broadway).

Those Finicky Facts

In her piece Kathleen garbles the already misleading sign posted on the old McDonald's.

A sign in the window says it has moved to 404 W. Seventh St., at the corner of Hill Street.

...

Fast food isn't being pushed out, [Moore] said, just pushed to the sidelines: to mid-block sites, less popular corners like McDonald's new location at Hill and Seventh streets, or inside shopping centers, like its California National Plaza and Macy's Plaza locations.

If you actually read the sign that was posted you'll find that it says that they will be moving to 505 S. Flower (misleading because that location has long been open) and that "there is also another McDonald's located" at 7th/Hill. That one too has been there for quite some time.

Oh yeah, and there's also no McDonald's at Macy's Plaza. Carl's, yes. McDonald's, no.

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