Proposed Darien fast food hot chicken place gets a first nod from Zoning Commission

DARIEN — A new quick-service chicken restaurant is one step closer to a Darien location after the Planning and Zoning commission began deliberations on the proposed eatery.

Named Darien Hot Chicken, the restaurant will function as a fast-food-style place — with a small-town feel, the developer said.

“I think it’s a good use of the existing facility,” commission chair Stephen Olvany said during Tuesday’s hearing, adding he had no qualms with the application, proposed for 151 Boston Post Road.

Other commissioners agreed, saying they had also had few problems with the restaurant after two prior public hearings where the owners, Brandi and Phil Killoran, have been present to engage in back-and-forth with the commission.

The site, formerly occupied by an HSBC bank, has been vacant for around four years and sits on 3,500 square feet on a 0.95 acre property

The quick-service restaurant will feature a drive-thru, a walk-up window for pick up orders and dine-in seating with around 72 seats. Much of the commission’s discussion centered on how the site’s parking lot capacity— with a slated 30 spaces — would be able to handle a deluge of customers.

“It might be overparked,” commission member Cara Gately said during a May 10 hearing. “This is a little different than a normal quick-service.”

Lawyers for the project and the Killorans told commissioners they anticipate lines will move quickly, given data from Birdcode, another hot chicken restaurant they own.

Traffic studies submitted by an outside firm of experts concluded that the proposed restaurant use is not expected to notably impact general traffic on the Post Road.

The restaurant’s menu promises “Nashville-style” spicy chicken and other Southern-inspired family recipes — a model that has proved popular at the first location in West Hartford, which the Killorans opened in November 2020.

After a positive reception there, the Killorans — who formerly owned several Connecticut Ben & Jerry’s franchises — began looking for a second location in the Norwalk area and ultimately chose the Post Road space, they said.

While they are technically a fast food joint, they said they pride themselves on fresh ingredients and a family-owned feel, making them less impersonal than other big-name chains.

“There’s not many doing this model here,” Phil Killoran told commissioners.

The restaurant’s proposed hours are from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Commissioners did pose questions about the potential disruption to neighbors who live in adjacent properties.

“I live in one of the houses behind the fence and I’m sitting back there having a cocktail and trying to relax .... how bad is the racket going to be?” asked commissioner Jim Rand.

A sound engineer hired for the project said plans are to plant additional trees and the owners will raise a fence along the property lines, adding to a sound barrier that should dampen the noise from the restaurant.

The Planning and Zoning commission may take the project up again at their next meeting on May 24.