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Published: Thursday, 1/9/2003

White Castle presses city to OK 24-hour eatery

The White Castle restaurant yesterday held out the prospect of new full-time jobs in an effort to gain approval for a 24-hour operation on Cherry Street.

The Toledo Plan Commission approved a special-use permit for the restaurant and drive-through in November with the condition that the business close from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Yesterday, representatives of the company appealed the plan commission's conditions to Toledo City Council's zoning and planning committee.

“We are known for being a 24-hour facility,” said White Castle construction supervisor Joseph Barts.

The restaurant would be adjacent to the Farmer Jack supermarket on Bancroft Street.

Neighborhood groups represented by the Cherry-Summit-Bancroft Coalition warned the business would create a public disturbance, attracting loiterers in the early morning hours.

But Lane Williamson, a local attorney for White Castle, said the city's zoning law allows drive-throughs to be regulated for reasons relating to litter, traffic safety, and noise in residential areas.

The law does not pertain to general public safety concerns, he contended.

“We think the ordinance cannot apply to us,” Mr. Williamson said.

Gregory Kane, a representative of the neighborhood coalition, said if city law doesn't give council oversight of restaurant hours to ensure public safety, the city should amend the law.

Council President Louis Escobar said council members want White Castle to open in Toledo, and he expressed hope that a meeting with members of the coalition would yield a compromise.

“From an economic development perspective, it's important to support these kinds of businesses,” Mr. Escobar said. He said the issue could come up for a council vote on Jan. 21.

The committee took no action yesterday because there were not enough council members present for a quorum.

Gloria Hollingsworth, an assistant regional manager, told council members the restaurant would employ about 40 people, with salaries ranging from $34,000 for two managers to $8 an hour for “team members.”

Eighty percent of the employees would work full-time, with health insurance and vacation benefits valued at $2.50 per hour, Ms. Hollingsworth said.

The district council member, Michael Ashford, is opposing the 24-hour operation, because of the stance of the community organizations.

But Councilman Rob Ludeman said some of the opposition is coming from two nearby businesses, Church's Chicken and McDonald's, which do not stay open all night.

“That's not the way we do business here in Toledo. Competition typically is good,” Mr. Ludeman said.

Mr. Kane said McDonald's and Church's “are members of the coalition. They don't have a problem with White Castle. They have a problem with hours of operation and public safety.”

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