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Published: Wednesday, 2/5/2003

City OKs 24-hour White Castle

White Castle eked out a victory thinner than the beef patty on a “slider” burger last night in Toledo City Council to open a 24-hour restaurant at Cherry and Bancroft streets.

The national restaurant chain had appealed an order from the Toledo Plan Commission limiting the restaurant's hours of operation to 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.

The measure passed 7-5 with Councilmen Rob Ludeman, Wilma Brown, George Sarantou, Gene Zmuda, Frank Szollosi, Betty Shultz, and Louis Escobar voting yes. Voting to restrict the hours were Councilmen Robert McCloskey, Wade Kapszukiewicz, Peter Gerken, Michael Ashford, and Ellen Grachek.

The opposition came from the Cherry-Bancroft-Summit Coalition, a group of 20 organizations and businesses that claimed the store's parking lot will become a nightly outdoor hangout that police won't be able to control.

“It's a public safety issue,” said Mr. Ashford who led the effort to rein in White Castle's hours. “I represent the people who live in that neighborhood.”

Council's vote came after city attorney Gary Taylor, who advises the plan commission, told council there is no provision in the city's zoning law that allows council to restrict White Castle's hours of operation, and it would be overturned if challenged in court.

Asked why he didn't give that same advice to the plan commission, which voted Nov. 7 to restrict the hours, Mr. Taylor said: “I was not asked my opinion.”

Wayne Jensen, White Castle's regional director, said the company would hire security guards, if necessary. “I'm certainly not going to jeopardize our customers or our employees,” he said.

The coalition had offered to drop its opposition if White Castle would agree to hire security guards. One of its members had offered to split the cost of paying for late-night security, which the company declined, Mr. Jensen said.

“White Castle pays its own bills,” Mr. Jensen said. “That's why we've been successful for 82 years.”

He was surprised by the rough sledding for the fast-food chain “This is the first market we've been treated this way in the manner of restricting hours,” Mr. Jensen said.

He said the restaurant could open as early as June or July. Mr. Jensen also said White Castle would like to open at least three other outlets here.

Considered by some the granddaddy of hamburger stands, White Castle has more than 350 outlets around the country, including about 40 in the greater Detroit area and 69 near Cincinnati, Columbus, and Akron-Cleveland.

Greg Kane, coalition chairman, said Toledo's zoning code should be amended to allow council to restrict business hours where neighborhoods have safety concerns.

White Castle is known for its “slider” burger, a small hamburger patty with onions on a dinner roll-sized bun, usually bought in quantities.

Mayor Jack Ford had refused to state an opinion, then hinted at his position when he expressed mock disappointment that council's vote hadn't ended in a 6-6 tie for him to break. “If I had played my cards right, I could have had a year's supply of sliders,” the mayor joked.

Council also rejected a special-use permit for a convenience store at 3504 Lagrange St. The permit application received six votes but needed nine to pass because it had come to council after the plan commission rejected it.

Lagrange Village Council had fought the permit application for the store near Lagrange and Manhattan Boulevard, saying the neighborhood has more than its share of convenience stores and liquor outlets.

Council approved new committee appointments. The committees and chairmen are:

  • Community and neighborhood development, Mr. Ashford.

  • Economic development, Mr. Kapszukiewicz.

  • Environment, utilities, and public service, Mr. Gerken.

  • Finance and budget, Mr. Sarantou.

  • Health and community relations, Mr. Ludeman.

  • Human resources, Ms. Grachek.

  • Information services, Mrs. Shultz.

  • Intergovernmental relations, Mr. Szollosi.

  • Law and criminal justice, Mr. Zmuda.

  • Public safety, Ms. Brown.

  • Youth, parks, and recreation, Mr. McCloskey.

  • Zoning and planning, Mr. Escobar.



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