After five years of trying, the city of Montclair will finally get the Panera Bread Café.
On Monday, December 20, Montclair City Council unanimously approved a nearly 4,000-square-foot restaurant with drive-thru service and two outdoor dining patios within the Target Shopping Center on Moreno Street near the Montclair Place mall.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said councilwoman Tennis Johnson. “It would be a great addition to our city.”
City manager Edward Starr said he has been working with CIM, the owners of the Montclair Place mall, and Target, for at least five years to replace the Old Islands restaurant that closed its doors in 2010.
But the archipelago site could not accommodate the drive-thru lane. Instead, the site will be sold by CIM to Target and, in return, Target will give CIM a similar site to the west, taken out of the existing Target parking lot. The Panera Bread Cafe will be built on the new site, at 5012 Moreno St., after it is sold to a developer and then leased to Panera, according to the Star and staff report.
The former island restaurant building at 5220 Moreno St. will be demolished and the land used for restaurant parking. The Hawaiian-themed restaurant permanently closed its doors in November 2010 after fan palms perched on the closed structure, which has been lying vacant for 11 years.
Many people remember eating at a sit-down burger restaurant after shopping at the mall or Target. Counselor Bill Rooh recalls the previous eatery—a Van de Kamp’s restaurant, filled with blue-and-white windmills.
He added that Panera Bread will bring new life back to the Montclair Place mall area and the North Montclair shopping district.
“It adds something we don’t have right now,” he said. “It’s so exciting. Welcome to Montclair.”
The restaurant will have two outdoor dining areas, one on the south side and one on the east. Business hours will be Monday-Saturday from 6 am to 10 pm and on Sundays from 7 am to 9 pm.
The restaurant would fit in with the North Montclair Downtown specific plan proposed projects. Once built, it will become the first full commercial development of the Specific scheme and will fit with future development plans for the Montclair Place Specific scheme, directly across Moreno Street, according to staff reports.
Outdoor dining and drive-thru service have become more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic; According to staff reports, this is the reason why he was included in the design of the restaurant.
In addition, street dining is part of what makes the city a new setting for Moreno Street.
Nina Rai, Vice President of RSI Group, representing Panera Bread at the meeting, said the company is looking forward to launching.
“As soon as we get our permits, we want to be under construction,” she told the city council.
Nearby locations of Panera Bread are in Chino Hills, Upland, Brea, La Verne and West Covina. It is known for its sandwiches, soups, salads and bakery items.
Councilman Ben Lopez said, “My friends in Chino Hills will be mad, I won’t go there anymore.”