Should another liquor store be allowed to open in Menlo Park? Should city government regulate economic competition? Those are the questions the City Council faces at its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 9, when considering whether to let Beverages & More (BevMo) open a store at 700 El Camino Real.
In a 4-3 vote, the Planning Commission in August granted BevMo a use permit to open an 8,788-square-foot store in the same strip mall where Staples and Big 5 operate.
When Menlo Park resident Maureen Hogan appealed the decision, leaving the final outcome in the hands of the council, it gave local retailer Beltramo's time to rouse spirited opposition to the chain store.
Beltramo's did not respond to requests for comment about a Daily News story that reported the wine-and-spirits retailer had ordered all employees to attend the council meeting and oppose BevMo.
Mayor Rich Cline said he understood that the Beltramos are concerned about new competition, but that residents should be able to decide the town's future without coercion.
"I believe when there are cloaked surveys or a small cabal of businesses working together but hiding under or behind a public proxy is when we should question the motive -- as we saw with the opposition to 1300 El Camino Real. The fact is residents own the town, not businesses," said Mr. Cline.
Ms. Hogan, along with other supporters of local businesses, such as Beltramo's and Draeger's, have bombarded the council with e-mails stating their opposition to the store.
Other residents wrote the city to say the council should not interfere with a free market economy, and that fear of competition isn't a good enough reason to deny BevMo's permit.
Councilman Heyward Robinson, referring to the "overwhelming number" of public comments already sent to the council, said he hopes the mayor will manage public comments during the meeting so that the council can make a decision at a reasonable hour.
Emotions are running high for everyone interested in the outcome of the council's decision – sometimes even within the same household. Mr. Robinson mentioned receiving conflicting comments from a husband and wife.
"Like the Civil War, this can divide families," he said, laughing. "There's a lot of passion on both sides."
The council meeting starts at 7 p.m. in council chambers at the Menlo Park Civic Center (701 Laurel St.) on Tuesday.