The once-booming restaurant chain known for its ice cream and diner-style menu, Friendly’s, opened its doors back in 1935. At the height of its business, there were over 850 Friendly’s restaurants in the United States. More recently, the company has filed for bankruptcy twice since 2011. The recent closure of one Friendly’s location at 1243 Broad Street in Bloomfield has caused a debate within the local community. The Bloomfield Planning Board has received an application that would replace the former Friendly’s site with a combined Taco Bell and Wendy’s, and many residents in the community are actively opposing. Read on to learn more about the proposed Taco Bell and Wendy’s in the previous Friendly’s location at 1243 Broad Street in Bloomfield.
On December 19th, 2021, the Bloomfield Friendly’s location officially closed its doors for business. Rumors quickly began spreading over social media about what was to potentially open in its place.
Many residents speculated about another restaurant or luxury apartments.
One commenter responded stating, “I don’t know how true it is, so take it for what it is, that it’s becoming a Wendy’s,” which resulted in a debate on whether a fast food restaurant would be in the best interest of the town.
1243 Broad Street is zoned as a B-2 neighborhood business in Bloomfield Township. Examples of permitted uses in this zone include restaurants or fast food restaurants (without drive-through service), bars, offices, retail, banks, and educational institutions.
Bloomfield Township mayor Michael Venezia provided a statement on Facebook prior to the first board meeting regarding the application. The statement read:
“In regards to the former Friendly’s site, let me be clear that as of right now this is a proposal from a private property owner to the township planning board. I and every council member cannot legally comment for or against the project because if the planning board were to deny the project, the property owner has the right to appeal to the mayor and council. So we must adhere to this legal process.”
On April 12th, 2022, The Planning Board of the Township of Bloomfield first heard the application from Finomus Bloomfield Re Holdings LLC, who purchased the property back on February 2nd, 2022.
The application features a 4,000-square-foot combined Taco Bell and Wendy’s with sit-down dining and two separate walk-up windows, to not go against township law in a B-2 zone. The combined fast-food establishment is expected to stay open until 12AM.
Stephen Joseph, on behalf of Castano Quigley Cherami, represented Finomus Bloomfield Re Holdings LLC that evening.
“The applicant is proposing to demolish the existing building – it was a Friendly’s – and construct a new building with various site improvements,” Stephen said. “It will be a dual concept restaurant, a Taco Bell and a Wendy’s. In order to accomplish this, the applicant is seeking preliminary and final major site plan approval with ‘C’ variances as well as some design waivers and exceptions for some of the signage standards.”
Bloomfield Planning Board member Gregory Babula voiced a variety of concerns regarding the application that evening. These concerns included the parking requirements to accommodate the significant takeout component of two walk-up windows and allowing southwest-bound Broad Street traffic to make left turns into the site.
Recently, Bloomfield Township passed an ordinance that no left turns are to be allowed for traffic heading southbound on Broad Street into McDonald’s – just two miles away from the proposed 1243 Broad site.
The April 12th planning board meeting concluded with the unanimous decision to complete a traffic study of Broad Street and West Passaic Avenue during peak rush hour including the pick-up and drop-off at Brookdale Elementary School, which is located directly across the street from 1243 Broad. The meeting also concluded with a unanimous decision to complete a planning study.
During the June 14th meeting, after completion of the planning study and review regarding 1243 Broad Street, “it was recognized that a new variance was needed that was not identified in the applicant’s plan,” said Michael Rubin, consulting attorney. “They’re required to conform to the setback along the common property line with the adjacent single-family dwelling on MacLeod [Lane].”
The application was adjourned and is required to be resubmitted before the August 9th, 2022 planning board meeting.
The Taco Bell/Wendy’s application has seen criticism and pushback from many residents of the north end of Bloomfield. Major concerns include increased traffic, litter, noise pollution, and decreased property values of the area.
Additionally, locals are concerned about the proposal’s proximity to Brookdale Elementary School, which is directly across the street from 1243 Broad.
“There is an elementary school right across the street from the site,” Wyatt Haynes, Bloomfield resident and former Brookdale Elementary attendee, told The Montclair Girl. “Parents and guardians are dropping off and picking up their kids – it’s already a hectic time.”
The parkway service area, which is located less than a mile away from the site, “is already planning on building a Chick-Fil-A and Shake Shack,” Wyatt continued. “We don’t need any more fast food places.”
Maria Probst, life-long Bloomfield resident and admin of the Facebook group, Bloomfield Pulse, regularly updates locals on the 1243 Broad application. “It’s my community service, a way to give back. At times challenging, but also rewarding because I know we make a difference,” she told The Montclair Girl.
Maria has seen her activism and voice succeed when she and a group of residents opposed a 120-foot cell tower proposal less than 200-feet from her property. She helped start Bloomfield Pulse back in 2014 to “get news out – just like these types of applications – when they affect the community as a whole.”
A petition on Change.org against the plan has seen over 1,100 signatures as of Wednesday, June 15th. The petition partitaly reads:
“The strongest impact we can make through this petition is to let the Planning Board know we do not want them to accept the proposed variances for the project: 1) a bigger driveway, 2) bigger signs, and 3) fewer parking lots than required for the seating capacity. At the end of the day a private property owner is allowed to develop their property within the law, but we do not have to bend the rules for them if it is at the detriment of our community.”