Council demanded stacking plan in hopes of avoiding traffic jams witnessed at the Port St. Lucie Boulevard location

PORT ST. LUCIE – The City Council voted unanimously June 22 to approve the minor site plan for the city’s second location of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen after receiving confirmation of a traffic stacking plan its members had previously required as a condition of approval.

During the April 27 discussion on the special exception needed for the restaurant’s drive-through facility planned for a 1.21-acre site on U.S. 1 just north of Veteran’s Memorial Parkway, most of the Council worried they might see a repeat of the traffic chaos caused by the chain’s first franchise in the city opened more than a year ago on Port St. Lucie Boulevard. That property initially proved insufficient to handle the mealtime traffic trying to access the restaurant’s drive-through at 190 S.W. Port St. Lucie Blvd., forcing many motorists to block the right lane of the boulevard while waiting to enter the parking lot. During the earlier meeting, Mayor Gregory Oravec asked Councilwoman Stefanie Morgan to amend her motion for approval to include the requirement for a stacking plan “that allows for additional stacking” at the planned location wedged between a Dollar General and Dairy Queen currently under construction on the west side of the highway.

“This concern has to be addressed,” he said.

Councilwoman Jolien Caraballo, in whose district the proposed restaurant would be located, warned the developer during the same meeting that she would personally call the police if the traffic into the restaurant ever backed out on the highway.

“There’s so much traffic on U.S. 1, so I expect safety always, first and foremost,” she said.

During the latest meeting, Planner Holly Price described the changes detailed in the stacking plan to the concerned Council members, including the addition of a dedicated stacking lane, escape lane and parking/waiting spaces.

“There are 16 stacking spaces currently on this plan for when it would be the most common expectation of how many cars would be there,” she said. “In those instances of where there’s some kind of special [offer] or something going on where parking demand is especially high, it developed an alternate route for additional cars to come in and stack over on this south side. They are proposing to have employees in those instances come out and help direct traffic.”

Mayor Gregory Oravec admitted some of his initial concerns were allayed during a recent strategic planning session of the Council.

“I think one of the compelling points that at least was mentioned was the difference in the number of cars that could be stacked at this location compared to the PSL Boulevard one,” he said. “It was pretty dramatic.”

Ms. Price agreed.

“If you tally up all the additional parking, it’s like 40 on this proposed site as compared to 16 for the capacity on Port St. Lucie Boulevard,” she emphasized.

Councilwoman Caraballo also expressed satisfaction with the submitted stacking plan and believes the new location could even help alleviate the congestion on the city’s first Popeyes location.

“I would just like to thank staff and the applicant for providing this plan as we requested and real viable solutions on how to ensure that we have safety on U.S. 1,” she said. “Honestly, I think it’s going to work for their benefit. If you don’t have to hang out on Port St. Lucie Boulevard [as a customer], I’m sure you’re going to feel compelled to probably go this Popeyes on U.S. 1, knowing full well that you’re going to have room to actually wait for your food. I think it’s a great plan and appreciate them providing it to the Council and more importantly to the citizens in the city.”

Just a few years ago, Fort Pierce and Vero Beach were the only two Treasure Coast municipalities to even have a Popeyes until Martin County saw a Kanner Highway location open in late 2017. That was followed by the Port St. Lucie Boulevard location the following year, as well as a second Indian River County location on U.S. 1 to join the one already located in the Travel Center of America truck stop on State Road 60 near Interstate 95. Another St. Lucie County location is planned for Midway Road in White City in the future.

Begun as Chicken on the Run in 1972 by New Orleans restauranteur Al Copeland, the restaurant floundered until the late Mr. Copeland decided to spice up the recipe with Cajun zing and renamed it Popeyes Mighty Good Fried Chicken, which almost instantly saw success. The restaurant eventually adopted the name Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits and today is referred to as Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Today, Popeyes has more than 2,700 restaurants scattered across the United States and around the globe. 

Ironically, and to the surprise of many, Popeyes was not named after the famous cartoon sailor man but rather after one of Gene Hackman’s characters in the film The French Connection that debuted in 1971. In that movie, Mr. Hackman played Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, a New York City cop obsessed with taking down a drug operation. When asked why he never used an apostrophe in the name of his restaurant, Mr. Copeland quipped he was “too poor to afford one.” His firm did eventually acquire the rights for 35 years to use the image of Popeye the Sailor Man to promote its chicken franchise operations.

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