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Bowie council approves plan for new restaurant at town center

BowieCityCouncilBOWIE – A new restaurant is on its way to opening in Bowie.

At its April 3 meeting, the Bowie City Council voted 5-0 to approve with conditions the specific design plan for a BJ’s Restaurant that intends to move into the vacant Sears Auto Repair building at the Bowie Town Center.

“We’re very excited about taking a unused, essentially, portion of the Bowie Town Center which is the Sears Automotive Center and replacing it with a vibrant, high-quality, family-oriented restaurant,” said Robert Antonetti, the attorney for the restaurant company.

Joan Leguay, director of property development for BJ’s Restaurants, agreed.

“We’re very happy to be coming to Bowie. We’ve been looking for an opportunity here for quite some time, so we’re just thrilled to have this one,” she said.

Leguay said the company has pledged to open 10 new restaurants in 2017, and Bowie’s would be the 10th. She said that puts them in a tight timeframe, with construction anticipated to begin in May and the restaurant opening in October.

The location is 7,255 square feet, comparable in size to the other four Maryland restaurants, in Laurel, Columbia, Towson and Frederick.

Frank Stevens, a member of the city of Bowie planning staff, said the restaurant use is allowed by right and the company has already signed a lease for the property. He added the Bowie Advisory Planning Board unanimously voted to recommend approval for the project, with conditions. The applicant has agreed to add bike racks, a van-accessible handicapped parking space, and more native or non-invasive plants to the property, including trees.

“There were 32 shade trees that were identified in the parking lot of Sears that were either missing or diseased and dying, and the applicant has agreed to replace all of those trees,” Stevens said.

Several council members expressed enthusiasm for the new addition to the town center. Councilwoman Diane Polangin noted the proposed hours mean the restaurant would provide a place for a “late night bite to eat,” while Councilman Michael Esteve said he appreciated the restaurant’s focus on charity. Its national charity is the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, but Leguay said the company encourages each location to support local and community causes as well.

She also said the restaurant will benefit local brewers by serving their beers.

“Local brewers and local favorites, we like to serve those as well at our restaurants, and we’ll be working with local breweries to try to get them some advertising as well as some more fans out there,” Leguay said.

Bowie Mayor Pro Tem Henri Gardner said that was a main selling point for him.

“It’s always good to promote local and that’s what I like,” he said.

Before construction can begin, the plan must be approved by the county planning department. The restaurant has requested that the decision be made at the planning director level.

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