SPRINGDALE, UTAH - The town of Springdale is just weeks away from having it’s first franchised restaurant, and it comes after a legal battle that went on here for six years.
Earlier this month, the town council reluctantly agreed to repeal an ordinance banning “formula restaurants,” which are defined as ones with similar branding, marketing and menus.
Mayor Stan Smith said it was a difficult decision to make, but in the end they had little choice. The town council enacted the ordinance in 2006 in an attempt to preserve the small town charm.
“We want to be unique,” Smith said. “When somebody comes in here, we want them to see it’s not just another tourist town next to a national park.”
Local business Izzy Poco, LLC took issue with the ordinance, saying it took away the freedom of residents to open the business of their choosing. They filed a lawsuit against the town after officials denied Izzy Poco’s request to open a Subway restaurant just outside Zion National Park.
“We felt very strongly to uphold the Constitution and open a business which we feel would be good for the community and for the tourists that visit the area,” said Izzy Poco spokesperson Jack Fotheringham.
Smith said the town was prepared to fight for the ordinance, citing several different cities throughout the United States with similar ordinances. Izzy Poco argued the council was singling them out, pointing to other franchise businesses like gas stations and hotels.
Ultimately Smith said it came do the town’s insurance. United Local Government’s Trust threatened to drop coverage if the city didn’t resolve the pending lawsuit.
“They said you’re up for renewal, if you don’t repeal this ordinance, there’s a good likelihood we won’t renew your insurance,” Smith said. “That’s kind of the big thing that put us to say, 'Yeah, we need to settle.'”
Under the settlement, the town paid out $787,000 in lost income to Izzy Poco, and repealed the formula restaurant ordinance.
Other business owners are mad about the decision, both that the city settled and is allowing franchises to come in, and also that Izzy Poco would disregard the ordinance put in place by the town.
“I had to follow the ordinance,” said Blondie’s Diner Owner Shelly Cox. “Those of us around here who have complied with the ordinance now are having to find deep questioning on why.”
Smith said he and city council are looking at some different ways to try and keep the charm in Springdale. That could include restrictions on the outside of buildings, limiting color, architecture and the size of signs.
Fotheringham said he don’t see how a chain restaurant could threaten the town. Zion National Park brings in and estimated 3.4 million tourists a year. He said they plan to open the restaurant in about six weeks.