Driving Down Business? Chick-fil-A drive-thru traffic blocks access to small businesses in Pompano Beach

(WSVN) - Some South Florida small businesses say they are literally being cut off and worry if they’ll be able to survive, and they are pointing the finger at a fast food giant. The Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek has tonight’s special assignment report, “Driving Down Business?”

For more than 20 years, Virginia O’Neil has been cutting hair.

Virginia O’Neil, barbershop owner: “It has afforded me a modest, nice lifestyle.”

She owns TFS Hair Stylings in Pompano Beach, but right now, it’s her business that’s being cut.

Virginia says she has gone from an average of 14 cuts a day to just seven, and she says it’s not just because of the pandemic.

Customer: “I’m trying to go home!”

Virginia says her barbershop is being affected by this fast food drive-thru that sometimes snakes right past her front window.

Virginia O’Neil: “Here comes the Chick-fil-A parade. It saddens me that so many people who I have been cutting their hair for over 20 years, I don’t see anymore.”

Virginia says at times her clients physically cannot get to her, and the view from 7Skyforce helps explain why.

Here is Virginia’s barbershop, off Federal Highway, and her two parking lots. Next door is the Chick-fil-A, and look how drivers waiting for the drive-thru can block off access to Virginia’s parking spots.

As one of Virginia’s customers describes it…

Jane Eisdorfer, barbershop customer: “It’s like an accident waiting to happen.”

The congestion can be frustrating for those trying to come…

Jack Owens, barbershop customer: “I’ve actually come by, and it was backed up so far on Federal Highway that I just had to go past.”

And go.

Bernard Kelley, in car trying to leave Virginia’s barbershop: “You expect to just get out and go, but you have to sit here for 5 to 10 minutes trying to just to leave the business.”

So, we’re trying to leave Virginia’s barbershop now, but we’re stuck now, too, because we’re essentially in the Chick-fil-A drive-thru.

Aly Arnold, Jimmy John’s franchise owner: “Monday thru Friday we are in war. I mean, I apologize to all our customers.”

Aly Arnold co-owns a Jimmy John’s in the same plaza as Virginia’s barbershop. She says, since the pandemic, the popularity of the Chick-fil-A drive-thru has surged, but with customers now sometimes struggling to get to her sub shop, she says, her sales have been sliced in half.

Aly Arnold: “We’re here to work with you. We’re not against you. We’re neighbors, so if you’re willing to come to a compromise and we can solve this as adults, let’s do it.”

At the Chick-fil-A, they are trying to make this line move. You can see staff walking car by car grabbing orders.

The operator of this Chick-fil-A franchise tells us, “We recognize that there are traffic concerns surrounding our drive-thru, and we have been working diligently with the city of Pompano Beach, local law enforcement and Chick-fil-A, Inc. to implement a permanent solution to improve traffic flow. Our goal is to ensure that … those in close proximity to our restaurant are safe, and we can assure you that additional changes are in progress.”

Virginia O’Neil: “Well, I would be very grateful, because like I said, I know Chick-fil-A is not going, nor do I wish them to go. The only thing I’m asking is to move the drive-thru over to the left hand lane.”

But since drive-thru traffic sometimes still blocks access to her barbershop, Virginia decided to force the drive-thru into that left hand lane herself.

Virginia O’Neil: “Let their customers feel like my customers.”

For one day, she strategically parked her SUV so her customers could easily maneuver around. It was a quick, but not permanent fix, for this jammed parking lot.

Pompano Beach Commissioner Andrea McGee tells 7News the city’s building department is looking into whether it has the power to help solve the problem. If so, McGee says, she’d like to see a solution in which all sides are left happy.

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