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Sonic restaurant coming to Arsenal Street plaza by August


The Oklahoma fast food restaurant chain that bills itself as America’s drive-in will set up in Watertown this summer.

In a press release, Sonic Drive-in announced Wednesday that a Rochester franchisee plans to open a restaurant in Watertown and five others in the Syracuse area over the next four years. The Watertown restaurant is slated to be the first of those to open, with a target of August, the release says.

Last week, Alexandria Bay developer Patrick M. Donegan confirmed Sonic was eyeing an outer pad at City Center Plaza off outer Arsenal Street, near Interstate 81. He surmised he would have more news in about a month.

“Now that the cat is out of the bag, I don’t have to be secretive,” he said Wednesday, adding that he wanted Sonic to make the official announcement about Watertown.

Mr. Donegan expects an engineering firm hired by Sonic will appear before the city’s Planning Board next month.

A franchise group, led by local restaurateur Fran DeSimone, plans to open the Watertown and Syracuse restaurants. He plans to open five in the Rochester area over the next four years.

“Upstate New York has been exposed to Sonic’s marketing and word-of-mouth for years, and is clamoring for the Sonic experience,” Mr. DeSimone said in the press release.

While fast-food aficionados cannot get the chain’s food now, they probably have seen the company’s clever television ads. They feature two guys sitting in the front seat of a car, munching on hot dogs and enjoying milkshakes.

Mr. DeSimone is also involved with ownership roles with the Panera Bread, Burger King and Taco Bell national restaurant chains.

Bob Franke, senior vice president of franchise sales and international development for Sonic, said the Watertown and Syracuse franchises will feature “an indoor dining prototype,” suited for drive-ins in colder climates.

Currently, there are only a few of the restaurants in the state, including Newburgh and Staten Island. Sonic has announced plans for growth upstate, with eight more in the Buffalo area in the next six years.

For years only in warm-climate states, Sonic Drive-ins feature “friendly” carhops and more than one million drink combinations. It now has more than 3,500 restaurants in 44 states.

The Watertown drive-in would join Buffalo Wild Wings, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Ruby Tuesday’s, Starbucks, AT&T, Ponderosa, Holiday Inn Express and Hilton Garden Inn already at City Center Plaza, and Moe’s Southwest Grill in Seaway Plaza, across the parking lot from Chipotle Mexican Grill.

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