Chipotle is slated to return to Bixby Knolls following the abrupt closure of Carl’s Jr. on the northeastern corner of Atlantic Avenue and 37th Street, according to Long Beach city staff.

The changeover is being approved through a building permit plan check and is still under review by the city’s Planning and Building and Safety bureaus, according to Community Development Department spokesperson Rick de la Torre. No entitlements are required for the project, he added.

Chipotle, for its part, would not confirm any detailed plans, saying in an email Wednesday, that it does not have a “confirmed location, but we are exploring opportunities to bring our real food to the Bixby Knolls community.”

Late last month, the Carl’s Jr. at 3700 Atlantic Ave. shuttered without warning after more than 50 years. One night it was serving food, the next morning a sign on the door and drive-thru window announced its permanent closure, according to residents. Within two days, the space had been cleared of all equipment and a fence erected around the site, Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association, said in an interview Wednesday.

“We don’t know why, there’s only speculation,” Cohn said, noting that it could be anything from the franchisee simply wanting out of the business or the location underperforming.

“We were just surprised. There was no word or indication,” Cohn said. “Not even folks that were regulars down there had any idea.”

The Carl’s Jr. corporation did not respond to requests for comment.

The arrival of a Chipotle would be a return to the neighborhood for the brand, which previously had a store near Long Beach Boulevard and San Antonio Drive. The location, which opened around 2016, closed before the pandemic, Cohn said.

Another Chipotle store is located just over a mile up Atlantic Avenue at Spring Street in Signal Hill.

It’s unclear if Chipotle will use the Carl’s Jr. building’s drive-thru, a feature the brand does not currently offer in Long Beach. “Chipotlanes,” as locations with drive-thrus are called, were introduced in Northern California last year, and hundreds of locations across the country now have drive-thrus since the concept was announced in 2019.

On social media, some residents voiced their displeasure over the fast-casual Mexican food’s return, citing the previous closure and proximity of the Signal Hill store, among other reasons. One Facebook user, Fritz Milas, noted that longtime mom-and-pop Mexican and seafood spot Patricia’s is mere steps away.

Some residents, including Cohn, meanwhile, said they are just happy that something is going into the space.

“I’m happy that someone is investing so quickly and that we won’t have a vacant space that would sit indefinitely,” Cohn said. “We’re just going to watch closely how it all develops.”

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.