Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Panera Bread eyes Crestview Hills location

Bakery also serves soup, coffee

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CRESTVIEW HILLS — Panera Bread, a national bakery/cafe chain, hopes to open its first Kentucky location in front of the Crestview Hills Mall by next fall.

        The proposal is just one of several Northern Kentucky restaurant introductions and changes recently announced: a Fazoli's location closed and was purchased by a Gold Star Chili owner; a Montgomery Inn location was announced; and a Behle Street To Go! carryout facility is set to open.

        The Columbus-based Panera developers met with about 50 to 60 residents and city officials last week to discuss their proposed European-style bakery/cafe.

        The full-line bakery, known for its signature San Francisco sourdough bread, opened its fifth Greater Cincinnati location last month in Kenwood Towne Centre.

        At hundreds of locations throughout the country, Panera Bread bakes its bagels, specialty breads, pastries and croissants daily. At the end of the day, leftover baked goods are donated to local charities.

        While developers have not submitted a formal proposal to Crestview Hills, they expect to seek a variance from the city's board of adjustment in about a month. The variance would allow Panera Bread to build its 4,800-square- foot, free-standing building closer to Dixie Highway.

        “Some good questions were asked (at last week's meeting),” said Ken Rosenthal, a partner in Breads of the World, which operates the Panera Bread Greater Cincinnati franchises. “Hopefully, we addressed everybody's concerns.”

        Besides its baked goods, Panera Bread is known for its soups, salads, espresso beverages, and specialty coffees, Mr. Rosenthal said. Hours typically are about 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

        “We're a neighborhood business,” Mr. Rosenthal said. “We don't serve alcohol, or keep late hours, and we have a very nice clientele.”

        The proposal to build a Panera Bread comes nearly two years after Crestview Hills residents de feated plans to build a Steak 'n Shake drive-through restaurant in front of the mall, citing concerns about traffic congestion, litter and air pollution.

        Like the Steak 'n Shake, Panera Bread — founded as The St. Louis Bread Co. in 1987 — is proposed for one of four out-lots in front of the Crestview Hills Mall, facing Dixie Highway. The area was approved for commercial use in a 20-year-old site plan, but has never been developed, city officials said.

        “For so long that area has been green, and some people were not aware that our zoning would permit anything in front of the mall,” Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier said.

        If developers receive the go-ahead to build Panera Bread, it would mark the latest develop ment in the ever-changing Northern Kentucky restaurant scene.

        • Last week, Montgomery Inn Inc. announced it would open its third Greater Cincinnati restaurant, in Fort Mitchell in mid-March. The 225-seat Montgomery Inn will be in the former Burbanks Restaurant in front of the Oldenberg Brewing site on Buttermilk Pike.

        • Behle Street To Go! — operated by the owners of the Behle Street Cafe in Covington — opens next month at 2220 Grandview Drive in the Fort Mitchell Station strip center. The restaurant, which will primarily be carryout, with limited seating on an outdoor patio, will specialize in ribs, seafood, pastas and salads, and will feature a children's menu. It will operate 11 a.m. to midnight daily.

        • On Dec. 23, Fazoli's closed its Crescent Springs restaurant, leaving six other Greater Cincinnati locations. Phil Greer of Midwest Management Group and Greer Development said that he is looking at several other Northern Kentucky locations. Mr. Greer said the Crescent Springs Fazoli's was closed because it cut into the sales of the Florence Fazoli's. He added that he is looking at possible sites for a new Fazoli's close to Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights and near Ky. 17 in Fort Wright.

        While the owner of the Gold Star Chili franchise in Crescent Springs has purchased the Fazoli's building there, no decision has been made on its future use.


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