The Conditional Use Permit needed for Joe’s Crab Shack to open a restaurant in the Johnnie Mercer’s Pier house received a unanimous favorable recommendation from the Wrightsville Beach Planning Board at its meeting on Tuesday, March 5.
At the beginning of the presentation, town planner I Eryn Moller said the only concern planning staff had with the CUP was the effects of opening the 270-person-occupancy restaurant could have on the traffic and parking issues already present in that area. Planning board member Walt DeVries asked and Moller said those concerns should be strongly considered, but the planning staff did not want to discourage commercial development.
To address the issue with regard to parking and traffic, Tom Hundrieser, director of real estate for Joe’s Crab Shack’s parent company, Ignite Restaurant Group, said the company is planning for the restaurant to survive off of beach traffic during lunch hours when parking is at a premium.
“We think during the day we will be solely surviving off the people who are already at the beach,” Hundrieser said. “If we thought we would have to pull traffic from elsewhere during the daytime we wouldn’t be here,7 because we know we couldn’t because of traffic and parking issues.”
Hundrieser said Ignite has experience in dealing with these concerns, because there are numerous Joe’s Crab Shacks across the country in waterfront and downtown areas without dedicated parking lots and surrounding residential areas like Savannah, Ga., San Antonio, Texas, and Naples, Fla. With parking in the area already being utilized at a high percentage in peak summer hours he argued the restaurant would not add to the problem.
Board member Ace Cofer also inquired about the way trash and the potential for littering from the proposed outdoor pier dining area would be handled. Sean Rea, vice president of construction for Ignite, said there would be no dumpster for the restaurant and that all trash cans would be stored in the proposed exterior trash cooler until collection day. In regard to the possibility for wind-blown litter from the pier dining area, Rea said at the chain’s many other waterfront locations a group of employees have been specifically assigned to pick up trash from the areas surrounding outdoor dining areas.
Along with its recommendation, the planning board requested the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen consider planning staff’s recommendations when deciding whether or not to grant the CUP at its meeting on March 14. Those recommendations include: an unenclosed outdoor dining, no live music after 10 p.m., the creation of a traffic management plan, the installation of a net to catch trash that may fly away from the pier dining area and signage to warn patrons of littering.