Almanac

Viewpoint - August 18, 2010

Editorial: Dialog needed on BevMo application

The Menlo Park Planning Commission, and maybe ultimately the City Council, soon will decide whether the city should use its power to keep out chain retailers that might pose a competitive threat to locally owned businesses.

Beverages and More (BevMo), a regional chain of more than 100 stores, sells wine and liquor at discount prices and plans to open a new location in the former Chili's restaurant space if the commission approves a use permit. The strip mall, which faces the Caltrain tracks, backs up to El Camino Real and is already home to other chain stores, including Big 5 sporting goods, Staples office supplies and Lens Crafters.

Local liquor and wine merchants such as Beltramo's argue that the addition of a BevMo, which already has a location on El Camino Real in Redwood City, could be a devastating blow to them, especially in a tough economy.

The more important issue, in our view, is when and whether the city should support locally owned, independent businesses in the face of chain stores that might bring lower prices but threaten locally owned businesses. There is a clause in the governing ordinance that allows the commission to deny the permit if it finds the use "detrimental to the general welfare of the city." If the permit is denied, BevMo could appeal to the City Council, which would make the final decision.

There are plenty of reasons for the city to turn BevMo down. For example, over the years city surveys have consistently found that residents value shopping at businesses such as Beltramo's, Draeger's market, Kepler's Books and Magazines, Flegels furniture store, and others, rather than chain stores.

Hometown Peninsula, a shop-local group based in Menlo Park and chaired by independent bookseller Clark Kepler, notes that member businesses tend to spend more locally, while big box chain stores send their profits off to the home office in another state. Most local business owners and employees live in the community, which means their customers often can be their neighbors.

And there is another good reason to support local businesses. In just a few months, Menlo Park will begin final deliberations on a major "visioning plan" for El Camino Real and downtown areas. Planners aim to preserve the city's charm, character and small-town appeal. In arguments made in an unsigned flier sent out a few weeks ago, local liquor and wine retailers make that point, saying the city should not open the door to another liquor and wine outlet.

On the other hand, there are plenty of chain-owned stores already and distinguishing among prospective tenants is a slippery slope without any clear goal or policy. We think this is a debate worth having, and urge the commission to deny the permit so it can go before the full council for a policy discussion.

At the very least, the permit application will generate a healthy dialogue about whether the city is correct in protecting its small businesses from outside competition. As part of that discussion, we would urge local business owners, such as the Beltramos, to be open in making their case. Use of anonymous mailers serves neither the Beltramos nor the citizens of Menlo Park.

Comments

Posted by Clark Kepler, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Aug 18, 2010 at 11:07 am

Thank you for the insightful editorial! As I see it, the optimal point for all ensuing dialog ought to start by recognizing the larger economic and social impacts that independent businesses have on our local economy, and to not simply frame this as a "one-off" incident involving a single chain store wanting to locate to Menlo Park.

If we make decisions primarily as "consumers" rather than as "residents" our actions will be detrimental to the general welfare of the city.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2010 at 1:21 pm

"There are plenty of reasons for the city to turn BevMo down. For example, over the years city surveys have consistently found that residents value shopping at businesses such as Beltramo's, Draeger's market, Kepler's Books and Magazines, Flegels furniture store, and others, rather than chain stores."

Then allowing Bevmo shouldn't be a problem then should it? If people REALLY prefer shopping places like Beltramos and Draegers then the market will sort this out. Bevmo won't have enough business and they will leave. The Planning Department shouldn't be mucking around in a free market.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 18, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Menlo Voter states:"The Planning Department shouldn't be mucking around in a free market."

Well said. Government is not the vehicle that we have chosen to make free market decisions and when it does it almost always gets it wrong.

As Menlo Voter so aptly stated:"If people REALLY prefer shopping places like Beltramos and Draegers then the market will sort this out. Bevmo won't have enough business and they will leave."


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 18, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Apparently, the market worked quite well with regard to Chili's!


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 18, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Pogo states:"Apparently, the market worked quite well with regard to Chili's!"

Yes, but just imagine if the city has decided that Chili's was both serving unhealthy food and competing with 'locally owned' restaurants and hence should not have been allowed. Or that MP already has enough churches or newspapers or gas stations.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2010 at 5:09 pm

"Yes, but just imagine if the city has decided that Chili's was both serving unhealthy food and competing with 'locally owned' restaurants and hence should not have been allowed. Or that MP already has enough churches or newspapers or gas stations."

Maybe they can restrict the number of contractors working in town and help me out... ;-)


Posted by Interested, a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2010 at 7:33 pm

A dialogue is as much needed on this issue as I need another [portion deleted.]

Its called "Free Enterprise"....if a business cannot succeed,it will not succeed.....notwithstanding the whining of the likes of Dreagers, Beltramo's and Keplers, who seem to think that keeping Menlo Park "smalltown" is a code word for ensuring their prosperity.....

I remember the day Kepler locked the doors to his store not just to customers, but to his employees.without notice...Did he give a rats backside about the "community" then?

Welcome BevMo, may thre be lots more following you.....


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 18, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Menlo Park should have precisely as much input as to which merchants enter the town as it does residents. That is to say, none whatsoever.


Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 18, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Is there a link between those that oppose free enterprise and the Almanac? Like advertising or something?

Thanks.


Posted by Interested, a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Actually Joanna, in fairness to the Almanac, I would have to say they would probably do well from a company like Bevmo.....


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Its too bad that most of the planning commission and council members likely don't read the TF. This thread is amazing. With the exception of Mr. Kepler's post, I cannot recall reading a series of comments that were in so much agreement with one another--and from several posters who generally tend to disagree with each other. At last, we have common ground. Great points everyone(except Mr Kepler & the editorial)! Unfortunately, it is more likely than not that the PC will punt to Council, and Council will deny the use permit (wait...or maybe put the issue on the ballot after all this is an election year).


Posted by businessperson, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Aug 19, 2010 at 6:31 pm


Chili's may have been a chain business, but my kids liked it and the prices were reasonable. We miss it. The chains got big because they honed sucessful formulas that pleased their customers. Bevmo appears to have done the same. They have nothing to offer me, but it suffices that they should be given a chance to build a business here, serve their customers, pay taxes, etc. Every one else should just stay out.


Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 20, 2010 at 1:33 pm

There are plenty of chains that offer great goods and services. Let the market decide.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 20, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Let the market decide!!!!

After all, the invisible hand of the free market always works.
Web Link

And the above link doesn't even refer to how well an unregulated Wall Street worked out for the last couple years.

But on to local zoning: the free market rules!

Can't imagine the sudden interest in regulation if a "men's club" (like the one near the mosque near ground zero) or a tat parlor wanted to open across from the BBC.

"Government is not the vehicle that we have chosen to make free market decisions and when it does it almost always gets it wrong."

How about a smoke shop that features more hookah pipes and rolling papers than cigars? Right next to Baskin Robbins? Here, little kiddies...

"Menlo Park should have precisely as much input as to which merchants enter the town as it does residents. That is to say, none whatsoever."

Uh-huh.

Any more blanket statements?

Libertarians: move to Kentucky, Rand needs your votes.


Posted by Assessor, a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2010 at 4:15 pm

San Mateo County's cities are just ready to leap on the next disagreement in order to voice opinions which ultimately show that there is a good reason it is becoming one great big bore of a place to live with every adjoining city making life here like a squabbling petty group of aging name callers who have nothing in common.
Hence, no one seems to get any decisions of import done.
Overinformed but clueless citizens who are as far apart as the two poles(not racist here).It is all one giant know it all EGO trip.
Meanwhile, no one has mentioned that the HSR seems to have made plans to go ahead and dump your arguments.That is a given when they broke ground in San Francisco for the terminal.duh.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Anonymous -

No one but you suggested that we don't need to regulate business. But comparing poor regulation on derivative trading at investment banks with a city council's decision to permit BevMo to replace Chili's is beyond absurd. Keep searching, I'm sure you can come up with something better than that.

BevMo sells brie cheese, ginger ale and merlot. It isn't a strip club nor does it sell illegal narcotics.

Take off your Birkenstocks, chill and get on topic. And, by the way, Bush has been out of office for nearly two years. It was in all the papers.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 20, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Pogo:

no one suggested that we don't need to regulate business?

"Government is not the vehicle that we have chosen to make free market decisions and when it does it almost always gets it wrong." - Carpenter

"Menlo Park should have precisely as much input as to which merchants enter the town as it does residents. That is to say, none whatsoever." - Davis

Bush? Do a search, and it's your post that first mentions President Bush. But since you brought it up, search for the Mathis family and Bush using eminent domain to build the Rangers a stadium.


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 20, 2010 at 9:58 pm

I would be all in favor of a men's club, pipe shop, or tattoo parlor opening its doors in Menlo Park, or anywhere else for that matter. It just might make the town a little bit more exciting.

There is, in fact, a tattoo parlor that I pass nearly every day in Redwood City. The nearby stores and residences do not appear to have been devastated as a result.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 21, 2010 at 9:54 am

Anonymous -

Perhaps you should re-read Mr. Carpenter's statement. He said, "government is not the vehicle that we have chosen to make free market decisions."

That doesn't mean we can't have ANY regulations. It does mean that government shouldn't get to say Beltramo's is okay, but BevMo is not.

That's a decision for consumers and no government intervention is required.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 21, 2010 at 10:37 am

Pogo:

Okay: you ignored Mr Davis' statement, which was included, and he essentially reiterated, and you abridged Mr Carpenter's statement, I pasted it in full.

And I disagree.

Government IS the vehicle we have chosen, by swearing allegiance to our flag or by oath to the constitution. Government is the vehicle.

Don't like it? Elect new officials, as long as they adhere to the law.

Libertarians may not like it, but last I checked, it's the law.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 21, 2010 at 10:40 am

I stand by my statement and challenge anonymous to provide one example where the government has made a successful free market decision -

"Government is not the vehicle that we have chosen to make free market decisions and when it does it almost always gets it wrong." - Carpenter


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 21, 2010 at 10:42 am

To continue:

We likely both agree we need far better politicians. Also likely, we each think of far different ones.

Perhaps you preferred a Campbell over a Carly; I have issues with Jerry. Yet he'll get my vote, and she may get yours.

Democracy seems like such a damn good idea, maybe someday we'll get it right, eh?


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 21, 2010 at 10:46 am

Peter:

Okay, I'll stay on the same example then: not allowing an establishment such as the BBC to have strippers, aka a "fine gentlemen's club." Putting a hookah parlor next to B&R. Tats next to Stac's.

There is a place for government and zoning, don't you think?


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 21, 2010 at 10:51 am

Peter:

Were you against the loan to GM, saving an American car company, and countless jobs in the middle of a great recession?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 21, 2010 at 11:52 am

Anonymous asks:"There is a place for government and zoning, don't you think?"

yes, primarily to ensure that adjacent properties are allowed to develop in a consistent fashion - which is very different than saying yes to one particular establishment that is selling something and no to another establishment that wants to sell exactly the same thing.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 21, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Anonymous -

I'll be brief because it's a bit off topic - but it does deserve an answer.

You provide a false choice. What makes you think that our choice was providing a loan to General Motors or watching the company shut down? Not giving a taxpayer loan to GM doesn't mean the company goes away.

What makes you think that Warren Buffett or Carl Icahn wouldn't swoop in and buy it "on the cheap" as they have done with other troubled assets? And what makes you think they wouldn't have done an even better job than the government controlled reorganization (which resulted in 50,000 laid off workers!).

Businesses fail everyday be they bookstores, restaurants or laundromats. Those business owners, suppliers and employees are every bit as impacted as a Detroit autoworker yet I don't see taxpayers rushing to their aid.

And companies operate in bankruptcy (reorganization) everyday. Bankruptcy rarely means "closing the doors" - it usually means reorganization. You've probably flown on bankrupt airlines and shopped at bankrupt stores.

Markets have winners and losers.


Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 22, 2010 at 12:34 am

It wasn't the Government that saved Keplers. It was a group of private investors. While there should be Government Regulation there should not be Government strangulation. And the rules should be applied equally.

One reason the House of Representatives will go to the Republicans in November is that our beloved Community Organizer in Chief gave a 7 year deferral to the Unions for paying into Healthcare while everyone else is paying. And having the Louisiana Purchase ($300,000,000) and the Cornhusker Kickback ($100,000,000) puts States such as California at a financial disadvantage.

Currently, Government has way too much power and control over the private sector and it is killing the Goose that laid the Golden Egg.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2010 at 11:39 am

....and things were going so well, sigh, ok, back on the TOPIC that Bevmo's application for a use permit needs more dialog.

I say, Welcome to Menlo Park to Bevmo and submit here a very short list of the "pros" for why I do. Because I don't have to (and can't really think of any), I will not include "cons".

increased competition for my dollar
on my way home after work
good selection at reasonable prices
one less empty store front in MP
source of sales tax for the City
a few new jobs in the City
I like beer
I like wine
I like deli snacks


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 23, 2010 at 11:43 am

something we can all agree on?

I like beer

I like wine

I like deli snacks


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Thanks for the smile, Anonymous!! See folks, proof that there is always common ground to be found if you just look for it.


Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 24, 2010 at 7:19 am

If you want the garden variety stuff then shop at BevMo. But K&L Liquors in RWC has the best selection and the most knowledgeable staff. Whether you want a Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc to drink with your cracked dungeness crab or a Remy Martin Louis XIII to sip after dinner K&L is the place to go for your fine wines and spirits. Plus it will rent storage lockers for your fine wines.

Bruichladdich anyone?


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