Sonic 'ready to roll' in Bel Air

The place to be just around lunchtime Sunday was the new Sonic Drive-In, which made its Harford County debut on Bel Air's Route 924.

Cars lined up along the back entrance to the fast-food restaurant and dozens of people also waited to order at the walk-up menu, while "carhops" in bright green uniforms zipped around on roller skates, or blades, to deliver food.

A large inflatable ice-cream shake announced the restaurant was open for business.

Rick Joshi, a regional manager who has overseen six other Sonic locations, said the opening went smoothly despite construction delays caused by utility problems.

The restaurant was originally set to open in October 2011 and has built up a fan base of more than 2,000 people on Facebook since then.

"Everybody I talked to was just really happy about it, so I think we are going to be pretty busy this time," Joshi said about the opening.

The restaurant has hired more than 60 people and plans to hire as many as 100, he said.

"These kids in this area are awesome," Joshi said about the young employees. "We are ready to roll."

Sonic usually opens its new franchises on weekdays, but the opening-day crowd in Bel Air was nevertheless "a little above average," corporate market leader Josh Susko said while directing traffic.

The restaurant features 15 drive-in spaces instead of a typical 20 because of the smaller lot size Sonic got in Bel Air, as well as a drive-through window and outdoor seating with an electronic menu where people can also walk up to order.

The Oklahoma-based chain recently opened two restaurants in Baltimore County, and also has one in Elkton in Cecil County.

Adam Merryman and Chris Bays, both from Bel Air, were two die-hard Sonic fans in line on opening day.

They said they have regularly gone to Lancaster to visit the drive-in and waited for years for Sonic to open in their own backyard.

When word got out that Sonic would soon be in Bel Air, Bays said he "cried for joy."

"We took road trips to go to other Sonics," Bays said. "I wouldn't have been up this early if it wasn't for a Sonic run."

Merryman said the restaurant offered different food from other fast-food chains and he liked the drive-in atmosphere.

Grace Davis and Robert Swam also said it will be a nice fast-food alternative.

"I think it's awesome," Davis, who has been to Sonic elsewhere, said. "I think it's good to have something different fromMcDonald's."

She said she likes Sonic hot dogs and added that not many fast-food sites have hot dogs.

"It's cool. It's unique," she said.

Swam said it will be a change from the ordinary.

"I think it will really help," he said. "There's, like, three McDonald's in Bel Air."

Some people also said it reminded them of drive-ins from years past.

"I think it's going to be the biggest thing in Bel Air," Kathy Fenn, of Bel Air, said. "It will be a safe place for the kids to hang out...That's all the kids have been talking about, Sonic opening."

She added jokingly: "The roller skates are going to give them all some exercise."

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