Hancock County

Where to get a coffee in Old Town Bay St. Louis has caused quite a stir

This is the architect’s rendering of the Creole Creamery and PJ’s Coffee planned for Bay St. Louis.
This is the architect’s rendering of the Creole Creamery and PJ’s Coffee planned for Bay St. Louis. Harry Baker Smith Architects/Jim MacPhaille

A developer sees his proposed coffee shop’s drive-through as a convenience, while some residents see it as a potential hazard for pedestrians.

Jim MacPhaille, a developer based in New Orleans, is planning to build a PJ’s Coffee and a Creole Creamery on three lots at the corner of Main Street and North Second Street. The coffee shop would include several parking spaces as well as a drive-thru, and it’s that lane that has some residents concerned.

At the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Jan. 30, MacPhaille’s application for special exception to the zoning ordinance, allowing him to include the drive-thru, was accepted unanimously. The property is zoned C-1 Central Business District. The City Councilvoted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the variance and allow the drive-thru.

MacPhaille and his wife, Catherine, own Century Hall and the historic A&G Theater. He also manages 200 North Beach Restaurant and Bar, said he is aware of the concerns but that residents need not worry.

“This is not a typical drive-thru,” he said. In addition to the order and pickup lane, an auxiliary lane would handle any overflow that could affect traffic on Main Street.

“And it will have 18 parking places,” MacPhaille said, adding that a traffic study showed a daily average of 1,200 cars pass the area, with 1,600 during high-traffic times.

The Creole Creamery would be on the north side of the property, with an enclosed common area between it and the PJ’s building. The drive-thru would be at the south side of the PJ’s building, between PJ’s and The Social Chair’s property. Traffic from the drive-thru would flow from Main Street through the proposed parking lot on the southeast side of the property and exit onto North Second Street.

Whitney LaFrance is one of the residents who think the proposed drive-thru is a bad idea. She attended the Jan. 30 meeting and said several other Bay residents worry the drive-thru will affect the walk-ability of what locals affectionately call Old Town.

“Old Town is set apart,” she said. “This is a walkable town, and a drive-through takes away from that. It doesn’t let people enjoy what living here is all about.

“I have a 2-year-old, and we love to walk around town every weekend. I’m not sure I would feel comfortable about that with the drive-thru,” LaFrance said.

She’s not opposed to PJ’s coming to Bay St. Louis. In fact, she said, she is all for more businesses, but that a drive-thru would be better located on U.S. 90 than in Old Town.

She added several other residents have the same concerns.

“There were at least 30 people in the room who felt the same way,” she said. “I believe three or four people spoke in favor of it, and one of them was Mr. MacPhaille.

“I know Mr. MacPhaille, and I really do believe they really want what’s best for our city. I hope he listens to our concerns.”

MacPhaille believes some of the criticism comes from beliefs that his shop will be in direct competition with nearby restaurants known for their breakfasts.

“I think some people don’t want another coffee shop, but this isn’t that kind of restaurant. We’re not serving eggs, bacon and toast. This is a place to get your coffee, muffin or bagel. It’s convenience,” he said. “But we also want to offer something for people in what has been a dead zone.

“We’re going to be good neighbors,” MacPhaille said.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1