It took 9 months, but new BBQ restaurant approved for northwest Macon

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Liz Fabian

A new Sonny’s BBQ will be built in front of the Lofts at Zebulon in northwest Macon.

Slow-smoked meat is a trademark of Sonny’s BBQ and a local franchisee found patience also can pay off when seeking zoning approval.

Brad Fink, who owns Sonny’s BBQ restaurants in Warner Robins and Perry, finally got approval Monday from the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission for his new 4,700-square-feet location in front of the Lofts at Zebulon in the 5800 block of Zebulon Road.

Engineer Cleve Cunningham and attorney George Greer spoke on Fink’s behalf during Monday’s re-hearing granted after commissioners initially rejected the project in July.

Plans for the restaurant were first presented in December, but commissioners objected to the drive-thru and design of the building to be built on an outparcel of the residential and retail complex.

In 2015, when the mixed-use, planned development was approved amid controversy from neighbors, P&Z agreed there would be no fast food restaurants with drive-thrus.

Those advocating on Fink’s behalf argued that Sonny’s is primarily a sit-down, family restaurant that would have a drive-thru for convenience of those placing orders to go.

P&Z deferred the item until Jan. 13 but the applicant opted to defer the request to consider design changes. In February, Commissioners deferred again with objections to the drive-thru, building layout, design and encroachment on a linear park in the development.

In July, the developers took care of three of the four issues but still included a drive-thru, citing the increase in take-out food orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commissioners rejected the proposal because of the drive-thru but stated they could approve the eatery if there were only a pickup window and no outside speaker.

Monday, Cunningham told the commission Sonny’s corporation approved eliminating the menu board and drive-thru speaker system from the design.

Greer submitted a letter from Fink.

“To make sure there’s no ambiguity, I have this statement of Mr. Fink… confirming he is moving ahead with the elimination of a menu board and intercom system,” Greer said while handing over the statement for the record.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the restaurant.

“I am delighted to be able to tell you we are approving your application,” commissioner chairwoman Jeane Easom told Greer and Cunningham. “I know I can’t wait to tell my staff they get a Sonny’s now.”

The restaurant will seat 170 people inside and 30 on the patio. Fink plans to employ 30 people and be open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., seven days a week, according to the application.

No word yet on how long it will take to build the restaurant or when it will open.

Other items on Monday’s agenda: 

885 Lower Poplar Street – Commission rezones 7.03 acres from M-2 Heavy Industrial to A Agricultural to permit the land owner to build a single-family home.

1125 Walnut Street – Approved a monument sign on the lawn of the Divis law firm.

2710 Walnut Creek Road – Conditional use approved for Brilliant Academy of Minds for a daycare center with an afterschool program. Commissioners also approved a variance for the parking lot.

3369 Hamlin Road – Commissioners approved a variance to allow an existed parcel to be divided into two lots to give separate residences their own address.

5020 Mercer University Drive – Approved conditional use to allow sales and service of outdoor power equipment for Macon Outdoor Power in the old 30,000-square-foot Olympia skating center built in 1977.

5560 Houston Road – Carter Engineering Group secured rezoning of 4.3 acres from Agricultural District A to C-2 Commercial District to allow for expansion of the nearby Rutland Self Storage facility.  The rezoning and conditional use permit will allow 218 self-storage units and vehicle storage on the property.

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected]