A Sad Goodbye…

The R’s Final Fiesta is going on with special fun today, Friday, and Saturday so stop in to say goodbye and to enjoy your favorite R’s food and drinks.

At the July meeting last week, the QAC Planning Commission approved the plan for a McDonald’s fast food restaurant with a double drive-thru to replace the R’s Americantina building in the Thompson Creek Mall. The only vote against approval was made by Shannon McClellan. The members of the Planning Commission are appointed by the elected County Commissioners.

It is no surprise, given the large amount of community protest against this project, that the news has been met with great surprise, sadness, and even anger. Many community members feel that the project will create significant traffic issues as large numbers of beach-bound cars exit Route 50 into the mini-traffic circle. Those against the project disagree with the MD State Highway Authority’s testimony that the traffic circle can handle 2,200 cars per hour. Those against the project disagree with Gerry Gimelstob, owner of the new McDonald’s, that there will be adequate parking in the mall when the fast food restaurant is operating.

Those against the project do not believe that the Planning Commission followed the guidelines that are to be applied to all applications. In order for the Planning Commission to approve this project, the proposed McDonald’s must satisfy all of Code 18: 1-153 requirements:

1. Will not substantially increase traffic hazards or safety concerns due to traffic generated by the proposed use, the location of curb cuts, or the layout of internal circulation,
2. Contains a layout of buildings, parking, roads, and utilities that does not substantially increase fire, health or other public safety hazards,
3. Is adequately buffered and screened to minimize potential adverse impacts to neighboring properties and public rights-of-way,
4. Will not have an unreasonably adverse effect upon property values in the vicinity of the site,
5. Will not adversely affect the public welfare,
6. Is compatible with the general character of the surrounding neighborhood.

The last day for R’s Americantina will be Saturday, July 20th. The team at R’s has been holding their heads up this past week as they greet their guests to say goodbye. It’s heartbreaking to see this story come to a close, particularly since R’s was going to close in April 2011 before Mark and Jodie Gray took over the business and worked to rebuild the restaurant’s presence in our community. “We couldn’t be more disappointed and surprised by this turn of events”, says Jodie Gray. “This situation is nothing short of devastating to us and to those who have worked for R’s over the past two years to save this restaurant. We wish the story about the fight against McDonald’s and against Hyatt Commercial, who owns the building, had a different ending for the employees at R’s, for all of us who live here.”

There has been some criticism that R’s has no right to complain about what Hyatt Commercial has done because they have a Month-to-Month lease. Jodie addresses that sentiment by saying, “I can understand how someone might see it that way now, given this news 2 ½ years later, but in February of 2011 when R’s was going to close and negotiations with Hyatt were underway, this situation never occurred to us. Alan Hyatt offered us a Month-to-Month lease so we could figure out if we could raise this business up out of the ashes. If you all remember, the hole was pretty deep. He seemed to be genuinely interested in helping us make this work. We thought it was much less risky to try at all if we would not be held personally liable for the balance of a long-term lease should we not be able to make it and close after six or seven months, for example. Who would take over a failed restaurant and be on the hook for $8,428 a month for 48 months if we couldn’t make it work when there was another option presented? Promising to pay $405,000 to see if we could make it seemed like a huge risk at the time. I’ve seen some people on the social media sites claim that we are getting what we deserve, and right now I feel pretty stupid that I believed Hyatt wanted us to make this business work. Really, even more stupid now given the information that they’ve been working with the McDonald’s corporation for more than a year so it’s like for the past two years Hyatt just wanted us to fund their search for a big business to replace us.”

“I wish that I had made a different decision back then, but I had no way of knowing that we’d assemble such an incredible team, and that the community would embrace us as they did, that we’d not only make it but to achieve so much. I am heartbroken that the end was apparently in the cards more than a year ago and none of us knew about it”, says Jodie. “As our time at here R’s comes to a close, we are so thankful for the support from this community, now and over the past two years. Mark, Emily and I couldn’t be happier that we’ve met all of you. We ask that the business owners in our community welcome the R’s employees into their businesses. These are some of the best people you will find and I wouldn’t willingly give them to you!”

If you are interested in buying anything at R’s, please stop in during the open house on July 24 and 25 from 3 to 7 pm. Bids for items marked for sale will be accepted via bid sheets submitted through July 28 at midnight (turned in at R’s or sent electronically to Jodie@RsAmericantina.com). Winning bidders will be notified on July 29 and then the cash and carry pick up days will be July 30 and July 31, 2 to 8 pm.