Plans for Sonic restaurant in Riverhead on hold for now

Plans for a Sonic restaurant on Route 58 appear to have stalled, at least for now.

The drive-in restaurant was proposed in 2015 for a site across from Apple Honda. The proposal last appeared on the Town Planning Board agenda in January 2016.

A Sonic spokeswoman said last week there are no current plans for a Riverhead location, although that could change.

“At this time, Sonic does not have confirmed plans to share for a new drive-in in Riverhead,” Kirstie Russell wrote in an email. “However, we are constantly evaluating opportunities to expand in new markets to meet consumer demand, and our goal is to have a Sonic convenient to all customers.”

Sonic’s only current Suffolk County location is in North Babylon. Nassau County has two Sonics.

“We think Riverhead would make a great market for Sonic,” Ms. Russell added.

She did not indicate what happened to the earlier proposal and has no further comment.

The 2015 proposal called for an 8,250-square-foot restaurant in between the Riverhead Town highway yard and the BP gas station, just west of Osborn Avenue. Entrances were proposed for both Osborn Avenue and Route 58.

The development plan also called for a future retail building on the western portion of the 1.78-acre property.

At a January 2016 public hearing, the plan encountered some resistance from residents, including representatives of the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which has headquarters just north of the proposed site on Osborn Avenue.

Ambulance officials, while not opposing the restaurant, expressed concern that if Sonic drew long lines, which occurred when the North Babylon location opened in 2011, those lines could block access to the ambulance barn.

Other speakers, citing existing traffic congestion on Route 58, suggested alternate locations for Sonic, such as the parking lot of the former Walmart farther east.

Jeff Murphree, Riverhead’s building and planning administrator, said recently that he had not heard anything from the Sonic applicants since that public hearing.

While plans for Sonic are on hold, a Five Guys restaurant may be coming to Route 58. A representative for that franchise said last month it was too early to specify a location. Five Guys has a menu similar to Sonic’s, with burgers and hot dogs.

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File photo: Sonic in North Babylon. (Credit: Tim Gannon)