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Will third time be the charm for A&W in Prince Rupert?

With a development permit issued May 15, franchisee McMurray Group sees clear sailing ahead
The A&W in Terrace owned by McMurray Group, the same company that is actively trying to bring a franchise to Prince Rupert with a development permit issued May 15 by the City of Prince Rupert. (Black Press file photo)

It has been well over a decade since the prospect of an A&W restaurant for Prince Rupert first surfaced, but the “home of the burger family,” is once again hoping to drop anchor on the North Coast.

This time, McMurray Group, the franchisee, is cautiously confident the seas will be calmer.

“So, in the past, we’ve had some issues trying to get into Prince Rupert,” said Jon McMurray, a partner in the company and vice president of growth and reimaging. “Deals before, they didn’t work out, so before we pull the trigger and spend some money, we wanted to make sure we can actually get the development permit.

That came on May 15, when the City of Prince Rupert issued a development permit for a property owned by Mike Scott at the corner of Third Avenue and McBride Street.

The development permit is just one step, though. They will still have to jump through all the environmental, engineering and Ministry of Transportation hoops (for drive-thru access) so they can apply for a building permit.

McMurray didn’t have a timeline for all of that, but said they are doing their best to expedite it.

“We would have liked to have been there a couple of years ago, so we’re just trying to get there as fast as we possibly can,” he said.

In fact, McMurray first obtained the franchise from A&W Canada in 2012. Attempts to find a suitable location, though, fell apart and the project was dead by 2014.

More recently, in 2018, a partnership with Pollyco, owners of the Rupert Square Mall, to locate the franchise in the upper mall parking lot, also failed to satisfy city zoning requirements and by the spring of 2019, that plan had also run its course.

“It actually works out because now we’ll own the land instead of leasing the land, but I’ve got to say that at the mall would have had a great view out the front window,” he said.

McMurray is a B.C. business with strong ties to the North, McMurray said.

They started with their first A&W franchise in Cache Creek in 1995 and now have all the restaurants along Highway 16 except the one in Houston.

“My absolute best friend of the whole world lives in Terrace,” McMurray said. “One of my other best friends was a long-time Prince Rupert guy. So, we’re very tied to the community. We love the North. I spend probably as much time up there as I do down here [head office in Surrey].”

He is also big on fishing, so any excuse to get up to Prince Rupert will do, he said.

He added the company is anxious to get involved in the community donating to charities, participating in events, sponsoring teams and the like.

“We never come just to sell burgers, that’s not our thing,” he said. “We’re family run… my sister works here, my dad works here, my son works in the stores. We are a family business and we support tons of stuff. And we have zero intentions of Prince Rupert being any different.”

Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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