Dunkin' Donuts is engaging in a public relations campaign to win customer support for its proposed move from First Street to Fenn Street in Pittsfield, but city officials should only concern themselves with one simple reality. The presence of a drive-thru window at that site is a deal-breaker because of the traffic problems that would result.
In a flyer handed out to Dunkin' Donuts customers at First Street, the assertion is made that "We are relocating our 18 First Street location to 151 Fenn Street," which is far from a done deal. The leaflet asserts that the new site will better serve customers with various upgrades, including "Improved Drive Thru Queuing." Customers are urged to contact members of the City Council, and home and cell phone numbers and email addresses are helpfully provided. The company also asks for a show of support at Tuesday night's City Council meeting when the council takes up the special permit required for the drive-thru.
Earlier this month, the city Community Development Board approved the Fenn Street site plan for the Dunkin Donuts by a 4-0 vote but voted 4-0 against approval of the drive-thru permit. While the drive-thru creates headaches on First Street it would cause worse problems on Fenn Street because of its proximity to both the First Street intersection and to Willis Street, a contributor to the traffic jams at the Post Office building. While it is unlikely that the century-old former Plunkett School building on the site of the proposed eatery can be renovated, as many in the city hope, if Dunkin' Donuts won't go forward without the drive-thru, the building will win a stay of execution.
Customers are increasingly insistent on getting their chain donuts or cheeseburgers without getting out of their cars, but that is not Pittsfield's problem. The City Council should reject the drive-thru permit and the next move -- or non-move -- will be up to Dunkin' Donuts.