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Plans to open Chipotle on S. Craig Street remain stagnant

4611 Forbes Avenue — formerly the location of the Panther Hollow Inn — is the subject of plans filed with the Pittsburgh Department of City Planning to build a Chipotle Mexican Grill.  (credit: Abhinav Gautam/Photo Editor) 4611 Forbes Avenue — formerly the location of the Panther Hollow Inn — is the subject of plans filed with the Pittsburgh Department of City Planning to build a Chipotle Mexican Grill. (credit: Abhinav Gautam/Photo Editor)

As many students may remember, the Panther Hollow Inn was a staple of Carnegie Mellon University. With its red tent and brick walls, the bar was a daily hub of nightlife and socializing. Unfortunately, the building was shut down and gutted in 2013, which left the campus community searching for alternate places to hangout. Since the closure of Panther Hollow Inn in 2013, the space has remained empty, although there was talk about the potential opening of a new Chipotle.

Chipotle is a vastly popular Mexican chain restaurant that has become a quick eat haven for young adults. Currently, the nearest location is on Forbes, in the heart of the University of Pittsburgh’s campus, where the line often wraps around the restaurant on the weekends.

The Department of City planning had previously approved an application to renovate the property. There were then plans, with a projected cost of $500,000, to turn the building into a new Chipotle. Next, Pittsburgh confirmed that there were indeed plans to convert the once beloved pizza hub into the fast food burrito chain. A representative of Winthorpe Valentine LP, the owner of the building, briefed the Pittsburgh Planning Commission back in 2014 on plans to renovate the bar into a new restaurant. Work was set to begin on January 15th, 2015, however, over a year later, the building is still empty and there are no works in progress to restore the prime business location on Forbes and Craig.

A second Chipotle on Forbes is a disputable business situation. Only two blocks down, the current Chipotle is booming with business from hungry college students. Pittsburgh is the second most populated American college town after Boston, and thus well-known food chains thrive in this city. Opening another Chipotle near the Carnegie Mellon campus would reduce revenue from the current Chipotle near the Univerisity of Pittsburgh, and the money would simply be reallocated. It would also take pressure off the staff and workers, whose weekend shifts can be tiring. It should be noted that Chipotle is not a franchise, and only opens new branches based on company expansion policies.

Recently, however, Chipotle’s poor reputation has stemmed largely from its multi-state E. coli breakout. The Food and Drug Association has reported that as of Jan. 27, 2016, a total of 55 people have been infected. This has caused the famous chain to shut down 43 restaurants on the West Coast. With thorough investigation, the FDA has attempted to trace back the root cause of the bacterial breakout. Mexican cuisine, however, is hard to trace given the complexity of the dishes. Unfortunately, no isolated ingredient has been identified. Sophomore Ryan Francis points out that investing in another Chipotle is simply a bad idea, as the brand is losing profit. Instead, Francis would prefer to see a gluten-free option closer to campus, similar to Gluuteny’s location on Murray. Sophomores Sally Sohn and Megha Joshi concur, stating that there are already so many dining options near campus. The two vouched for a convenience store, especially given that Entropy is not open 24 hours.

As of now, the sacred ruins of Panther Hollow Inn have not been touched, and it does not seem that the city is proposing plans on them either. Carnegie Mellon’s Dining Services is also in the dark regarding the ideal location’s renovation.