Incredible Pizza up for debate

By AUBRIE GEORGE

Dozens of residents turned out to the last Council meeting of the year to voice both support and concern over the move to assist a California-based restaurant and entertainment venue in setting up shop at the Moorestown Mall.

Before last week’s meeting, Council had introduced two ordinances that make alterations to township codes to make it easier for John’s Incredible Pizza to build its first East Coast establishment in the Moorestown Mall.

John’s Incredible Pizza, which has 11 existing locations on the West Coast, hopes to build its 12th outpost in Moorestown. The planned facility is a 900-seat, 50,000 square foot establishment using existing mall space between Boscov’s and Sears.

John’s Incredible Pizza locations offer multiple-themed dining rooms, an all-you-can-eat pizza, pasta, soup, salad and dessert buffet, small amusement rides, and video and ticket-dispensing games.

Officials said the establishment would bring an $8 million to $10 million investment to the Moorestown Mall, which is privately owned by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT).

One ordinance approved last week alters the township’s code to allow the establishment as an acceptable zoning use in its proposed location.

Another revises the township’s games code to allow for arcade games in the establishment that dispense tickets.

Some residents protested Council passing the ordinance changes last week because, they said, most residents had only recently found out about the addition to the mall and needed more time to hear and discuss the facts.

“Nobody except the mall owners needs to be worried about whether John’s is a good idea,” resident Greg Adams said “However, I think the public has had too little time to hear about it.”

Councilman Greg Gallo, who is on the township’s planning board, said the project was done with normal, due process and was not pushed through any faster or any slower than similar projects.

Officials said the process began this summer when the company approached the township to assist it in setting up shop at the mall.

The township was part of meetings to assist the company, but makes no decisions regarding which tenants the mall owners accept or deny.

Some residents expressed support for the establishment coming to the mall, citing that the mall is an asset to the community and that adding to it would boost economic development and ultimately benefit taxpayers.

Jake Der Hagopian, chair of the Moorestown Economic Development Advisory Committee, strongly suggested the township approve the changes last week and welcome the new establishment into the mall.

“The mall, which John’s incredible Pizza is going to call home, is a major asset,” he said. “The schedule for their lease is not tied on to when we decide whether or not we may or may not want this.”

Last week, officials cleared up rumors that the establishment would sell liquor, as many of the company’s West Coast establishments do.

“This is not a discussion about alcohol in Moorestown,” Mayor Dan Roccato said.

“There has been no discussion, zero, with them about alcohol in Moorestown.”

Brian Siegel, managing director of H. Katz Capital Group, which partnered with John’s Incredible Pizza in its expansion, said the sale of alcohol at other John’s Incredible Pizza locations is not a significant part of the company’s revenue or the overall dining and entertainment experience.

“We like Moorestown, we like the family nature of the area,” Siegel said.

“The fact that we can’t have a liquor license was not an issue at all.”

Township officials said the measure to pass both ordinances on the table last week was really only to clarify that the use is acceptable under township code.

Technically, they said, John’s Incredible Pizza could have moved into the mall regardless.

Council passed both ordinances unanimously.

Council is scheduled to meet for its annual reorganization meeting on Jan. 10 at 6:30 p.m.