Some had been waiting for months. Others showed up on a whim. And countless more turned away at the sight of the enormous lines snaking around the first Sonic on Long Island upon its grand opening Monday.
But judging by the festival atmosphere with drivers honking their horns in celebration and crowds cheering each order placed, those who stuck it out felt it was well worthwhile. The 7-block long line of vehicles down Deer Park Avenue waiting for the drive-thru and 22 drive-in spots was only outdone by the the 6-hour-long pedestrian line this reporter waited on—although some say the lines were shorter during the day.
“The lines did not move at a supersonic pace,” said Greg Greenfield of West Babylon, who was surprised at the turnout but initially braved the estimated 2 1/2-hour wait upon joining the walk-up line during the fast-food restaurant’s first dinner rush at 6:40 p.m.
About an hour into the wait, Greenfield had to leave the line to attend to a family emergency. Yet for Brian Giglio of Islip Terrace, a Texas native who grew up with Sonic down the block, the call of “America’s Drive-In,” as Sonic calls itself, was too strong to ignore.
“When I take that first bite it’s gonna be like I’m home,” Giglio said with longing for a Supersonic Bacon Double Cheeseburger. He reminisced about another Sonic grand opening he attended in New Jersey at what was previously the closest franchise location to Long Island.
But in another cruel twist for such a dedicated patron, Giglio too had to leave the line early after nearly three hours when his ride called it quits.
And at that point, delirium began to set in. Someone offered to sell four spots at the front of the line for $20 each. Rumors began to swirl amid the fourth hour that those near the end of the line might not make the cutoff, prompting several more people to cut their losses and walk away.
The running joke was that those on line could have driven to the NJ Sonic and back in the same amount of time—not to mention one of the scores of fast-food restaurants less than a mile away.
“Only in America,” exclaimed one young woman on line.
“Personally, I think you guys are crazy,” one Sonic employee was overheard jokingly telling those in line.
It began to take on a feel of Harold and Kumar Go to Sonic—minus the drugs and three times longer.
At five minutes to midnight—closing time on weekdays, 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday—a man tried to cut the line, sparking boos from the weary crowd.
Then, when the moment finally arrived to order through a machine not unlike the one used at the drive-thru, the voice on the other end said: “Have a supersonic day!”
The exhausted waitress arrived on rollerskates in the patio with the long-awaited order: a Supersonic Bacon Double Cheeseburger, All-American Dog, Chicken Strips and a Cherry Slush—the breakfast burritos, although served all day, will have to wait. So will the chili tots and Sonic Blast.
After taking the last order, Bob Fanelli, chief operating officer of Conis, the local franchisee that runs the new Sonic and is scouting locations for 10 more on LI, said the restaurant took 1,400 orders. How many patrons were served by those orders was impossible to say.
One thing was certain, he said: “It exceeded our expectations.”