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Outback Steakhouse moves step closer near Lehigh Valley Mall

Proposed Outback Steakhouse site at Lehigh Valley Mall
John J. Moser
The proposed site for an Outback Steakhouse in the Lehigh Valley Mall parking lot, off Grape Street in Whitehall Township

WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. — Outback Steakhouse is one step closer to joining the roster of restaurants in Whitehall Township, the board of commissioners said during a Monday night workshop meeting.

During the session, commissioners discussed a resolution for sewage facility plan revision for new land development by Bloomin’ Brands, the company behind the Australian-themed steak restaurant.

The sewage discussion was a standard issue for new development, board President Thomas Slonaker said, and would likely be approved during the next regular meeting, set for Feb. 12.

Engineer Frank Clark said the process was a simple formality which had to be considered during planning due to an agreement with Kline’s Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, off Union Street in Allenown.

“Whitehall has a certain allotment of gallons per day to go to the Allentown treatment plant, and anytime anybody want to use us some of that allotment, we have to go through this process,” Clark said, adding the township has to keep careful records of sewage allotment as they have a “finite amount” per an agreement.

Clark also said the building plans for the proposed 4,758-square-foot restaurant, which is set to be constructed at 1300 Grape St. in an outlying portion of the Lehigh Valley Mall parking lot, have been “approved and ready to go.”

“I know almost everybody's really happy to have another restaurant come in."
Thomas Slonaker, commissioners' president

According to Clark, the project is in the midst of the planning module process, which on average takes between three to six months.

Slonaker said construction on the restaurant would likely be rapid once the planning module process is complete, though he could not provide a timeline for construction as of yet.

The project was initially announced in 2023, with developers presenting a land development plan to the township last February.

Outback already has two Lehigh Valley restaurants – at Hamilton Crossings at 800 N. Krocks Road in Lower Macungie Township, and at 3200 Emrick Blvd., Bethlehem Township, though the Whitehall commissioners seem receptive to a new location.

“I know almost everybody's really happy to have another restaurant come in. I mean people look at it as a destination, no different than what we have with the one of the most successful Red Lobsters on the East Coast,” Slonaker said.

According to its website, Outback has 704 U.S. locations, including 27 in Pennsylvania.

The restaurant is well-known for its season steaks, chicken, ribs, seafood, pasta and its signature Bloomin’ Onion appetizer, and features a casual dining motif channeling the Australian Outback.

Owner Bloomin’ Brands, which is based in Florida and opened in 1988, also owns the Carrabba's Italian Grill and Bonefish Grill restaurant chains. Bonefish Grill has had a location at Lehigh Valley Mall for about 15 years.

Lehigh Valley Mall just saw the successful opening of a Cheesecake Factory just before the holidays, attracting long lines of hungry shoppers to the franchise.