Panda Express: Planning Commission approves eatery with outdoor dining

October 28, 2011
Santa Paula News

The space devoted to those who love film will soon be a stop for fast food Chinese style, after the Planning Commission approved design changes sought by Panda Express.

The new eatery is taking over part of the soon to be vacated space now home to Blockbuster, located in the Santa Paula Shopping Center south of Vons. The store will be separated into two spaces.

Blockbuster became a tenant at the center in 1995. The center was built in the early 1960s, and fronts the 500 block of both West Main Street and West Harvard Boulevard. Recently Chase Bank opened a branch office in a new building.

Panda Express will employ up to six people and be open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and extend nighttime hours to 11 p.m. during spring and summer. The store will take up almost 2,000 square feet of the almost 5,000 square foot building. 

Panda Express will offer outside dining - designed, according to a representative of the company, to be a “major attraction” - and additional parking in the back. Commissioner John Wisda questioned the outdoor seating and was told such an amenity is corporate imposed and offered at other Panda Express locations.

Wisda expressed concern that the seating would be too close to the vacant portion of the building and “might impact rent-ability.” He also questioned the location of business doors, and suggested that one open in the opposite direction.

Commissioner Rita Graham asked about the number of outdoor tables, what material they would be constructed of, and if they would have cloth umbrellas. She asked that the company provide patio landscaping such as pots with plants and shrubs.

“Some potted plants” to soften the setting, said Acting Commissioner Chair Marilyn Appleby, “could go a long way.” After more discussion of design elements, the three commissioners - Chair Michael Sommer was unable to attend the meeting - approved the application.

The company anticipates the store will open in February 2012. Panda Express has been in business for 38 years - there are more than 1,370 stores in 38 states and Puerto Rico - and has a strong tradition of community support. 

The largest Chinese fast food restaurant chain in the United States, Panda Express has a reputation for paying employees more per hour than other fast-food restaurants to get employees to put extra care and concern into the food.

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