BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The empty dirt lot just west of the intersection of Oak and California might look like a wasteland now, but two years ago it was the site of a Logan’s Roadhouse restaurant, In a couple of years it’ll be something new, something different, and a sign of perhaps better things to come in Bakersfield.
The lot, right next to the northbound 99 freeway onramp, is the new designated home of a Cracker Barrel restaurant. And that’s a good omen, and not just for fans of the southern-fried restaurant chain. It’s also an indicator that corporate board rooms across America are increasingly bullish on the country’s reemergence from the pandemic. And an indicator that when the reemergence is fully realized, Bakersfield will be a place they want to be.
Cracker Barrel isn’t the only national chain headed this way. Dave & Buster’s, a restaurant and video arcade, is coming to Valley Plaza mall in a spot on Wible Road previously occupied by a tech school — another shot in the arm for a mall, like shopping malls everywhere, that is dealing with a retail world transformed by online shopping.
Cracker Barrel’s Bakersfield gift shop/restaurant will be built where Logan’s Roadhouse was destroyed by fire in October 2020. The Bakersfield Cracker Barrel would be the Tennessee-based chain’s 661st company-owned location, if it opened tomorrow.
A local Dave and Buster’s restaurant would be the Dallas-based chain’s 143rd location.
Neither Cracker Barrel nor Dave & Buster’s returned calls from KGET, most likely because their architectural plans have not received final approval from the city of Bakersfield. But the city’s planning department confirmed that both Cracker Barrel and Dave & Busters submitted initial plans many months ago and just this month both resubmitted plans incorporating changes required by the city. Opening dates for the two restaurants aren’t known.
Vince Roche of Cushman and Wakefield, a local commercial real estate firm, said generally speaking the addition of major national retail chains is a positive sigh for the local economy.
“It’s a feather in our cap, so to speak, and an affirmation — a continued affirmation,” he said. “And there will be more to come, we’re certain of that. So we’re delighted when retailers choose to come here.”
Roche said major national chains tend to not act hastily. They study individual markets and then study them some more before they commit. So the two chains’ pending arrival in Bakersfield probably means many national chains of different types have increasingly optimistic views of this market and its estimated 850,000 residents.
As the U.S. gradually pulls out of this pandemic, hopefully, good signs are on the horizon. Maybe this is an example.