Nora Truelson, an owner of the short-lived, long beleaguered drive-thru restaurant at 1851 Central Avenue NE, which finally closed earlier this year, has confirmed that a Falafel King is taking over the space. Truelson said her company, Truco Inc., has re-leased the property to Fouad Masroujeh. Masroujeh operates two other Falafel King locations, one in Uptown and one in Downtown. At the Central Avenue location, he will be leasing with an option to buy.
Masroujeh has been busy remodeling the space, adding all new furniture and installing fresh windows. He says he hopes to open around Nov. 11.
He also plans to request a conditional use permit that will allow him to operate a drive-thru 24-hours-a-day.
The news offers some closure to Windom Park residents who bitterly fought the Porky’s opening. A satellite of Porky’s on University Avenue in St. Paul, the nostalgia-themed drive-thru triggered worries that the high levels of crime and nuisance complaints at the original location would migrate to Northeast. Other concerns involved the proximity to homes in the area — the property’s drive-thru exited a mere 40 feet from the nearest residence.
Yellow signs declaring “No Porky’s!” turned up in neighborhood lawns in late 2006.
After a thorny city approval process, Porky’s got off the ground in December 2007 and then was shut down by the city a few days later. A separate controversy surrounded what finally caused the restaurant to close for good — whether or not the city forced the shuttering for code violations — in early 2010.
According to Gayle Bonneville, who works for both the Holland and Windom Park neighborhood associations, when neighborhood boards heard the news that a Falafel King was coming, “It was like, ‘Oh, great!’ But then when they hear about the 24-hour drive-thru, they say, ‘Well, I don’t know about that.’”
She added, “It’s a mixed bag. It’s up to the neighbors to hammer it all out.”
Another issue in question involves a wooden fence surrounding the restaurant. Bonneville said that the city council had mandated that it be a masonry fence, for sound-reduction purposes. But Porky’s management never complied, and the current fence could still stand as a violation.
“Our operation will not have any noise,” Masroujeh said. ”We won’t disturb the neighborhood.”
If residents would like to weigh in on the new Falafel King, Bonneville suggested they attend the Windom Park Citizens in Action meeting on Nov. 16 at the Windom Park Addition at Pillsbury School, 2251 Hayes St. NE, from 7 to 9 p.m.