Chestnut Hill will not be welcoming Rita’s Italian Ice to the neighborhood this year. John Thain confirmed that he has abandoned plans to open a Rita’s franchise in the Chestnut Hill Plaza at 7630 Germantown Ave. Thain stated that he made the decision on Monday “strictly due to timing.” He said he felt unable to get building permits, begin construction and open in time for profitable business this season.
“I’ll have an opportunity to revisit this in a very short time and I will do so,” Thain asserted.
Thain disclosed that the property’s landlord has found another tenant for the site, but “knows I will take the next available space.” Thain affirmed that both he and his partner, Jason Klotkowski “absolutely on principal will be looking to go into this location. It’s a good location.”
Thain had received the unanimous support of the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) to open a Rita’s in Chestnut Hill Plaza, but was challenged by nearby Trolley Car Diner owner Ken Weinstein. A restrictive covenant on the property prohibits “fast food” chains with no possibility for amendment in the future. Neighboring property owners within 750 feet of Chestnut Hill Plaza have the right to seek enforcement of the covenant. Weinstein was the only such neighbor to do so. Thain believes Weinstein is within his rights to challenge the Rita’s franchise, but feels ultimately Weinstein’s position is “indefensible.”
“I don’t have time to challenge it and get open for this year,” Thain remarked.
Thain believes the restrictive covenant could soon be rewritten by the CHCA. Bob Rossman, Vice President of CHCA’s Physical Division told NewsWorks that the association is currently researching all covenants in the neighborhood. Rossman explained that part of the research will be investigation of legal steps CHCA would have to take should they wish to do any restructuring of the covenants.
So for now, Thain is backing off the issue. “Today I would say, ‘It is what it is.’ ” he said. Thain divulged that he has been contacted by a number of “political” officials on both local and state levels who have taken an interest in his struggle. “This is only a temporary stay, if you will,” he commented.
Thain said he had already received several employment applications and would have employed 20 people had Rita’s been able to open this year. “Unfortunately those jobs will all go unfilled,” he lamented.