Almanac

News - August 11, 2010

BevMo rallies for second try at store

• Menlo Park Planning Commission schedules hearing on Aug. 23.

by Sandy Brundage

Three years after shelving plans for a Menlo Park store, Beverages & More (BevMo) is back. The alcohol retailer has filed for a liquor license with the state for a new location at 700 El Camino Real, the former site of Chili's restaurant.

The Planning Commission will hear BevMo's request on Aug. 23, according to Jeff Sealy, the chain's vice president of real estate. He said the El Camino location should be compatible with the community's desires to retain its downtown charm.

The last time BevMo tried to expand the city's alcohol offerings, six other vendors, including Draeger's and Beltramo's, launched a campaign to keep the store out of Menlo Park. The acrimony appears to be stirring again. Residents report receiving unsigned letters begging them to "preserve Menlo's uniqueness" by protesting the big chain's arrival.

Dan Beltramo shed some light on the mailer's origins. "It was sent by a group of retailers that feel strongly the city is best served by retailers already here," he said. In a fax sent to The Almanac, Mr. Beltramo wrote that a big-box store adds no charm to the city, and threatens local purveyors. The fax advocates for denial of a use permit, claiming the city has already reached a "saturation point" with eight liquor stores.

"Trying to convince the Planning Commission and City Council to regulate business in the city is inappropriate," said Mr. Sealy. "So is trying to use city government to block competition."

He added that Menlo Park residents already shop at the chain's Redwood City and Mountain View locations, so claiming that their needs are already met within the city is incorrect.

Anonymous protests seem to be all the rage in Menlo Park lately; the City Council recently voted to settle a lawsuit brought by mostly unidentified plaintiffs that forced, among other changes, the scaling-down of a planned grocery store at 1300 El Camino Real.

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