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This Is the One U.S. Capital That Still Doesn't Have a McDonald's

The absence has become the state's calling card.

With more than 39,000 restaurants in 100 countries, McDonald's is one of the largest fast-food franchises in the world. It is also one of the busiest, feeding a whopping 68 million people per day—about 1% of the world's population. You could say that Mickey D's is the unofficial cafeteria of the world. So how is it possible that there still remains one U.S. state capital that doesn't have a single McDonald's restaurant?

The chain currently operates restaurants in every U.S. state capital except in Montpelier, Vt., which is incredible when you think about it. That means you can get a Big Mac as far out as Honolulu—even Juneau. But if you're looking for Golden Arches in the Green Mountain State's capital, you'll need to keep on trucking.

Chick-fil-A May Not Be Welcome in This State

Make no mistake: McDonald's does business in Vermont. As of 2016, the franchise had 30 Vermont locations—not the strongest presence, but at least better than North Dakota, which has just 29. So what could account for McDonald's absence from Montpelier—culturally and politically one of Vermont's most visible cities? Vermonters over on Reddit have their theories. Some believe it comes down to the fact that there's already a McDonald's in the neighboring town of Barre. Another speculated that Montpelier is simply holding out for bragging rights.

McDonald's has attempted to set up shop in Montpelier before. In 1996, a Montpelier landlord, Jeff Jacobs, applied for a permit to convert a historic bank building into a McDonald's restaurant. Jacobs' request was denied, on the grounds that a Mcdonald's at the proposed location (a busy intersection) would create traffic problems. Jacobs appealed the decision to Vermont's Supreme Court and initiated an $8 million lawsuit, but neither case made it to court.

Jacobs' story is in keeping with larger trends in Montpelier. As Business Insider noted in a 2017 article on the topic, Montpelier is better disposed to local businesses than it is to large national chains, and so the fast-food giant's absence from the capital city is, in some ways, unsurprising. A case in point: nether of McDonald's top two competitors—Burger King and Wendy's—has restaurants in Montpelier.

Ultimately, being the only state without a McDonald's in its capital does remain one of Vermont's calling cards. Bernie Sanders, one of Vermont's most famous residents, certainly has no problem tweaking the fast-food chain. It's not personal, though. Just a Vermont thing.

For more, check out There's New Legal Drama Around McDonald's Soft Serve Machines, and don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox.

Owen Duff
Owen Duff is a freelance journalist based in Vermont, home of Ben & Jerry’s. Read more about Owen