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LEESBURG, FL-Cracker Barrel Old country Store Inc. of Lebanon, TN and the city are nearing a deal that would allow the national restaurant chain to build a 184-seat, 9,984-sf establishment right off the runway at this municipal-owned airport, 45 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando. The site abuts U.S. 441 north.

The deal is expected to be blessed this week by the city’s planning and zoning commission before it heads for city council approval later in the month for final approval, land planners following the novelty project tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

“It would be the first of its kind around these parts,” an Orlando industrial real estate consultant not associated with the venture tells GlobeSt.com.

The location would also give Cracker Barrel a niche customer base since the nearest full-service dining establishment to the airport is Captain Bell’s Seafood Restaurant on U.S. 441, a quarter of a mile walk.

Cracker Barrel officials couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline to learn the cost of the project. But local construction industry estimators who have done restaurant jobs previously tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity that the hard cost alone would be at least $65 per sf, or about $650,000 for the entire project.

The restaurant plans parking for 158 four-wheeled vehicles. Aircraft would be parked in a separate location.

“It’s this sort of creative planning and follow-through that separates the successful business operations today from the rest of the herd,” Dean Fritchen, senior associate, Arvida Realty Services Commercial Division, Winter Park, FL, tells GlobeSt.com.

For the Tennessee company, the Leesburg Regional Airport location would be its second planned restaurant in Lake County this year. Cracker Barrel plans to break ground by year end on a similar-sized property in Clermont at the south end of Lake County, 20 miles from the Leesburg site and 25 miles west of Downtown Orlando.

The south Lake location is in the Kash n’ Karry Shopping Center at the northwest corner of State Road 50 and Citrus Tower Boulevard. Completion is tentatively scheduled for April.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. is part of CBRL Group Inc., also based in Lebanon, a Nashville suburb. Besides its 440 Cracker Barrel restaurants and gift shops in 40 states, CBRL operates 78 Logan’s Roadhouses and eight franchised restaurants in 15 states; and three Carmine Giardini’s Gourmet Market units in Florida.

The company’s common closed Oct. 4 on the Nasdaq at $22.25, up from $21.78 on Oct. 3. Volume was 847,800. The stock’s 52-week high-low is $24.25 and $13.62. The price/earnings ration is 25.57. There are 55.3 million shares outstanding. The company’s market capitalization is $1.23 billion. Earnings per share for fiscal 2001 ended Aug. 3 was 87 cents.

CBRL Group previously announced plans to periodically repurchase up to three million shares of the company’s common at prevailing market prices.

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