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Bans and Limits Proposed on Quick-Serves
Health concerns, land use, and village charm cited in plans for South Los Angeles and Ogunquit, Maine.

Officials in Los Angeles, California, and voters in Ogunquit, Maine, will consider proposals that would prohibit new quick-serve restaurants from setting up shop.

Last week, more than 120 residents of Ogunquit signed a petition to outlaw chain restaurants. The petition only needed 78 signatures to get a place on the November 8 ballot. Across the country, Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents the 9th District of Los Angeles, introduced a plan that would place up to a two-year moratorium on new quick-serves in South Los Angeles, a section where there are more quick-serve restaurants than anywhere else in the city.

It would be interesting to hear what the advantages are of prohibiting or limiting quick-serve restaurant expansion into a given community.”

“It’s not only a public health issue, it’s also a land use issue,” Perry says. “My plan is to not only address public health issues, but to provide people with choices because they don’t have them now.”

The reasoning behind the proposed ban in Ogunquit, however, is quite different.

Mary Breen, the owner of the Bread and Roses Bakery and one of the organizers of the petition, told that the measure is a proactive step to preserve Ogunquit’s quaint village uniqueness.

Meanwhile, some in the quick-serve industry remain puzzled over the concept of banning or limiting quick-serve restaurants from becoming part of a community.

“It would be interesting to hear what the advantages are of prohibiting or limiting quick-serve restaurant expansion into a given community,” says Chris Elliott, chief executive of Atlanta, Georgia-based Fiesta Brands, which is helping partner El Pollo Loco Inc. expand its grilled chicken chain throughout metro Atlanta. “I don’t understand the reasoning. On the surface, it seems like a restraint of trade.”

Annika Stensson, manager of media relations for the National Restaurant Association, argues that banning certain types of restaurants from operating in a community is not an effective way to protect small business entrepreneurship or improve public health. Instead, she says, it can be detrimental to that community, as multi-unit restaurants provide significant job opportunities and economic activity that can lead to improved overall business or revitalization of an area.

“Whether operating under a nationally known brand or as a single-unit start-up, every restaurant serves as a cornerstone of its community,” she says. “More than nine out of 10 are actively involved in charitable activities, including local health programs, hunger relief, youth/after-school programs, literacy and more. Removing these restaurants from a community will deprive its members of significant community improvement.”

Moreover, Stensson says, the majority of restaurants offer healthful menu options for those watching their calorie, fat or other nutrient intake, but it is up to the consumer to order those options. “Without promoting regular physical activity and nutrition education; little will be achieved in improving public health,” she says.

When Councilman Joel Rivera of the Bronx announced that he would like to change the zoning laws to prevent quick-serve restaurants from taking over New York City streets, he was ridiculed for introducing “nanny-state nonsense” by suggesting the City Council should determine what and where people eat and criticized for attempting to banish commerce in a city where hot dogs are sold on every corner.

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