Drive-thru ordeal: Neighbors celebrate for sale signs at Nicollet Burger King

Drive-thrus are a shrinking business in Minneapolis and one neighborhood is celebrating the end of a Burger King.

Some of them engaged in a long fight to keep it from reopening and now the fast food restaurant has given up on the location at 34th and Nicollet.

The corner lot got pretty ugly since the restaurant closed in 2018 — a chain link fence doesn’t keep much out, there are overgrown weeds all over the lot, and years worth of graffiti. Neighbors called it an eyesore and some of them fought pretty hard to have it replaced by something more attractive.

Burger King didn’t have shuttered doors and evidence of encampments in the back and on the roof when Adam Wysopal moved in across the street in 2017. But he already had reservations about living so close to the fast food restaurant.

"It was a little dumpy, a little run-down," he said. "It was a big question mark, like ‘Do I want to buy a house situated across from a drive-thru?’"

Minneapolis banned new drive-thrus in 2019, but existing restaurants are grandfathered in, so Burger King could’ve kept operating on this corner. But it closed in April 2018 during the franchisee’s bankruptcy proceedings.

"Under Minnesota law, if a year goes by and that business isn’t being used, that right extinguishes," Wysaopal said. "April 2019 rolls around, I celebrated because I had concluded that they’ve lost their rights to operate that drive-thru."

His celebration four years ago turned out to be premature. Burger King appealed to the city Zoning and Planning Commission. The restaurant giant and a new franchisee convinced city leaders to give them a chance to reopen the restaurant and the drive-thru.

"It was a really blighted corner, and they were very adamant that they were going to bring it back to life and really create the kind of local business that would be an asset to the community," said Ward 8 Council member Andrea Jenkins. "And so you know, we took them at their word."

Council member Jenkins has mixed feelings about drive-thrus but supported the appeal to help people like herself with disabilities.

"Because of their disabilities, sometimes it's really challenging for them to get out of their cars and access local businesses," she said.

Wysopal lost a lawsuit trying to stop the drive-thru from reopening. When it stayed closed into 2021, he filed another lawsuit hoping to make the city enforce its own laws. The city agreed and although Burger King started the process of appealing again, it has now apparently given up.

A new street sign indicates a sale will bring an end to the fight to keep this Burger King closed and move the neighborhood in a new direction.

"This Nicollet corridor is on a new journey," Wysopal said. "It’s becoming more dense, more accommodating to people who don’t want to have to drive everywhere."

And he hopes other drive-thru restaurants don’t get as long if a leash.

"I think (the city) should remove this opportunity in the zoning code for folks to come forward and argue why they should have their non-conforming rights back after it’s been lost under Minnesota law," Wysopal said.

The property’s officially on the market now and the real estate agent tells FOX 9 he’s getting nibbles for both multi-family residential and retail.

It’s zoned for two- to six-story residential, possibly mixed with commercial, but no drive-thru.