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City says no to Royal Farms: a convenience store in deli's clothes

It sounds like a riddle: When is a delicatessen a convenience store?

The answer, typical for a law blog, is neither clever nor simple: It depends. Royal Farms says its planned location at Annapolis City Dock is a deli. The planning department has come down on the convenience store side, a position that will keep Royal Farms from opening its new store for the time being. The company will argue against the ruling at the March 4 meeting of the Annapolis Board of Appeals.

Royal Farms is a Baltimore-based company with 155 stores in the Mid-Atlantic region. According to the company website, since its inception in 1959 the brand has been all about "real fresh food served real fast" for dining in or taking out. Visitors to a Royal Farms restaurant can also purchase convenience products and fuel.

The City Dock location would offer breakfast along with Royal Farms' signature fried chicken, sandwiches and salads. The company signed a 5-year lease for the 3,000-square-foot lot in September 2013. On its application to the planning board, the company described the operation as a delicatessen.

An attorney for Royal Farms believes the planning department and other opponents of the new store -- including the area's residents association -- have some preconceived notions of what a Royal Farms offers. The hearing on the 4th should clear that up.

The problem is that the zoning code is fairly specific when it comes to the details. In Annapolis, a deli has no more than 10 seats, prepares made-to-order food and offers a limited selection of prepackaged items. The Royal Farms proposal, the acting planning director said, "does not meet code requirements."

It isn't clear how Royal Farms will proceed if the appeals board agrees with the planning department.

Source: Capital Gazette, "Royal Farms will appeal after Annapolis City Dock plans rejected," Jack Lambert, Feb. 19, 2014 

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