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Chili’s scouts Waynesville as possible location

Even as one national retailer — Home Depot — is pulling its plans for a Waynesville store, the national restaurant chain Chili’s Grill and Bar is setting its sights on the small mountain town.

The West Waynesville commercial area near the new Super Wal-Mart has been pinpointed as a potential location for Chili’s by Jim Reid, the chain’s western region district manager who is in charge of scouting possible locales. Reid has family ties to the area.

“From my personal observations, there’s nothing (no Chili’s) further west than Asheville, and yet I think that whole area is growing,” Reid says. “And they did just get liquor by the drink — that’s certainly another enticement.”

Voters passed a referendum in May that allows the sale of liquor by the drink in Waynesville.

Reid cautioned that Chili’s has not made a definite decision to come to the area, and that they are also looking at other sites in the western part of the state.

“Waynesville is one of them, but there’s nothing set in concrete. We’re just on a preliminary search,” Reid said.

Reid has turned in his site recommendation to the corporation’s development department, so the ultimate decision is out of his hands.

The announcement that Waynesville is being scouted as a possible location for Chili’s is well-timed. A few weeks ago, Home Depot announced it would kill its plans for a store at the new Waynesville Commons shopping center, anchored by Super Wal-Mart. Officials, including Mayor Gavin Brown, have expressed hope that restaurants could fill the void. The new shopping center has yet to attract any national chain eateries, except the Subway inside the Super Wal-Mart.

Officials also hoped allowing liquor by the drink sales would boost economic development and attract more national restaurants, though none have located to the area since the May referendum.

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