Zoning issue doesn't DQ famed Clinton DQ
Posted May 12
Clinton, N.C. — The owners of a landmark Dairy Queen in Clinton said Monday that they hope to reopen by July, a year after a fire severely damaged the business.
The July 29 fire, which destroyed the Waffle Kitchen diner next door, was only the first problem the Dairy Queen encountered. In recent days, there was concern that local zoning inspectors would prevent the ice cream parlor from reopening at all.
Although the sign outside the Dairy Queen still says "Closed. Zoning Commission," owner Billy Peterson said the city on Monday granted him the permit he needs to rebuild.
"The biggest issue we ran into was the drive-thru," said Peterson, whose grandfather opened the Dairy Queen in 1953.
Clinton inspectors questioned whether the Dairy Queen had enough space for a drive-thru. A city ordinance requires clearance for six cars to line up without spilling into the street.
“If we did not get that drive-thru back in service, there was a very strong possibility that we would not have been able to return to Sampson County, which is just heartbreaking," Peterson said. "You've had a family member who's worked here, (or) you've eaten here at some point. This is a historic landmark in Clinton, whether it's classified as one or not."
The family took their own measurements to show they could fit seven vehicles, and City Manager Shawn Purvis said the issue has been resolved.
"It's zoned accordingly," Purvis said. "As long as they meet the requirements for that zoning, the permit is issued."
The Dairy Queen is most widely known for "Bessie," a soft-serve ice cream machine that was built in 1951 and is considered the oldest ice cream machine operating in the South.
"In my mind, she's crucial to this store," Peterson said. "She's the wall that holds it up, in my mind. If she doesn't work, she will be fixed somehow, at some cost."
The inside of the building will have to be gutted, but the walls – and Bessie – will remain as the Dairy Queen is rebuilt, he said.
Clinton resident Vanessa Loftin said she can't wait for the shop to reopen.
"I hate to drive past it and see no ice cream," Loftin said. "(It) makes me sad."