OCEAN CITY — An old north-end steakhouse will soon be coming down and will be replaced with a stand-alone restaurant after resort planners this week approved the site plan for the project.
For years, the Blue Ox Steakhouse stood at the north end of the Williamsburg Plaza shopping center between 125th and 127th streets in north Ocean City, but the business has long since closed its doors and has been largely vacant. On Tuesday, the Planning Commission reviewed a site plan for the redevelopment of the parcel, which includes demolishing the old restaurant and replacing it with a new Chipotle restaurant.
“A large portion that formerly housed the Blue Ox is going to be demolished,” Zoning Administrator Kay Gordy told the planning commission on Tuesday. “In its place is going to be a 2,325-square-foot free-standing restaurant with a drive-through.”
The new stand-alone restaurant with a drive-through will be about 2,300 square-feet, compared to the 9,000-square-foot-plus establishment that currently sits on the parcel. Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville said there were concerns early about the potential impact of the popular drive-through restaurant on the parking for the surrounding businesses.
“We had some concern with the drive-through lane conflicting with the existing parking areas,” he said. “Those concerns have been addressed. You’ll actually end up with more parking then what was there before.”
Still, Planning Commissioner Peck Miller voiced concern about cars stacking up while waiting to order and pick up their meals at the drive-through. However, developer David Sullivan said the Chipotle business model differed considerably from the traditional fast-food drive-through with menu boards and intercom ordering and pick-up.
“The site is designed for a Chipotle restaurant and drive-through,” he said. “With their business model, they don’t have the traditional menu boards from which you order. You order through the app and if it isn’t ready when you arrive, you’re instructed to pull into a parking space. Stacking is not going to be an issue with this project.”
Architect Patrick Desmone said the proposed project is less than a third of the size of the old Blue Ox, alleviating any concerns about parking impacts.
“It’s only around 2,300 square feet of space, which is down from the 9,000 that was there before,” he said. “We’ve actually added parking for what is a much smaller space. We’re going to dress up the property with landscaping. It’s going to be a nice-looking building and a significant upgrade of what was there before.”
Northside Hotel Limited Partnership principal owner Fred Wine said his company also owns a nearby hotel and every consideration was given to alleviating any concerns about parking or vehicles stacking up at the drive-through.
“We also own the Holiday Inn Express right there,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is put something there that is detrimental to the hotel, in which we’ve invested a lot of money. We’re super happy to have Chipotle coming in. It’s a great company.”
Satisfied the project met the zoning and parking requirements along with other sections of the town’s code, the planning commission voted unanimously with Palmer Gillis absent to approve the site plan for the project.
“Good luck with this project,” said Miller. “It’s going to be a vast improvement over what was up there before.”