Priceville loses Taco Bell, gains 2 restaurants
By Ronnie Thomas
PRICEVILLE — With one fast-food restaurant leaving before it broke ground, two more are moving in to fill the void here on Alabama 67.
In March 2006, a Taco Bell was planning an opening that summer on a 1.2-acre plot in front of Comfort Inn. A spokeswoman for Tacala, the largest Taco Bell franchisee in the nation, said the restaurant has pulled the plug in Priceville.
But soon, only about a mile apart on opposite sides of the heavily traveled thoroughfare, Roosters and a Sonic
Drive-In will fill prime spots.
Roosters will spread its wings on about an acre at Alabama 67 and Willowbrook Street, on the former site of a machine shop owned by the late Marv Breeding.
Sonic will locate on about 1.3 acres across the highway from the BP station adjacent to Priceville High School, where the Catfish Cabin and later C.J.’s Restaurant once operated. A fire destroyed the building several years ago.
Marjorie Perlman of Tacala’s Birmingham headquarters said although the company decided not to develop in Priceville, it will continue to monitor the community.
“We believe it is a growing and vital area, but at this time the population does not warrant a free-standing Taco Bell,” she said.
It’s a proposition that Mayor Melvin Duran isn’t buying.
“I really don’t believe anything they say now after what they said in the beginning,” Duran said Friday. “We had a special Planning Commission meeting to approve their site plan to keep from holding them up. They even brought in a construction trailer and were ready to break ground.”
Tacala, which has 170 restaurants in six Southern states, operates two Taco Bells in Decatur, one on Beltline Road Southwest in front of Colonial Mall and another on Sixth Avenue Southeast.
Ed Denson Jr. of Decatur isn’t letting the fact that he owns two other Roosters in the area stop plans for Priceville. He operates Roosters in Gateway Shopping Center on Sixth Avenue Southeast and one in Hartselle, on Limestone Street Southwest off U.S. 31, across the street from the Encore Shopping Center.
“The Priceville restaurant will be different from the others,” Denson said. “It is actually going to be two restaurants in one.”
Denson said the restaurant will have a food court and people will dine in the same seating area.
“One side will be a straight Rooster’s like the others, serving wings, chicken fingers, hamburgers and Philly steaks,” he said.
“The other side will be a Roman Rooster’s, serving Italian food — pastas, pizzas, sandwiches and salads. We also will have delivery service.”
Kevin Briggs, a former Athens resident now living in Franklin, Tenn., is opening the Sonic.
He said he owns 42, including four in Huntsville, 20 in Tennessee and 18 in the Louisville, Ky., and Indiana area.
The Priceville Planning Commission recently granted Sonic a 15-foot variance that will allow the restaurant to build its canopies.
“We were supposed to have a 60-foot setback off one side of the property line toward Pleasant Acres Drive and we had only 45 feet,” said Jeff Hall, Sonic’s director of real estate and construction.
Briggs said the Priceville restaurant will feature “a new look of Sonic. It will have the drive-through plus an open-air café, a patio that will seat up to 32 people.”
“We hope to open in early September, in time for the first home football game,” Briggs said.
Priceville’s Rooster’s restaurant will seat just under 100 people and also will have outside seating. It will employ 25 to 30 people.
Sonic will employ about 20 full-time and about 20 part-time employees with a management staff of six. Zach Fieth of Huntsville is supervisor, and prospective employees should contact him at (256) 777-5674.
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