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Upcoming Nov 9th BevMo use permit decision

From: HARRY BIMS <harrybims_at_(domain_name_was_removed)>
Date: Sun, 7 Nov 2010 07:42:58 -0800


Dear Council,

Before you is an issue that has divided the City: whether to allow BevMo to locate its store at 700 El Camino Real. The importance of your decision tonight extends beyond a use permit for a liquor store. Your decision has been elevated to a litmus test for the kind of future downtown we want for the generations that come after us. Should we protect longstanding locally owned businesses from increased competition from chain store businesses in the downtown? Or is the public best served by a downtown that reflects the outcome of free market capitalism?

I submit that there are two things you must consider in your deliberations. First, our locally owned businesses have always faced outside competition from chain stores. Menlo Park residents can and do frequently travel to other cities to do their shopping. Even within the downtown there are many examples of chain store businesses.

Yet our local businesses have survived because of their uniqueness in the marketplace. A Council decision tonight against the BevMo permit will not improve the health of the Beltramos business; rather it will merely maintain the current situation. The Beltramos store proves its value to the customer everyday against a BevMo that is a short drive away in Redwood City.

Some chain stores have tried to operate a business downtown, including Chili’s, Arby’s, etc. but failed. Success downtown is not guaranteed, whether you are a local business or a chain business. A Council decision against the BevMo permit does not guarantee the success of BevMo and the demise of Beltramos, though you must admit it does not help the Beltramos situation.

Second, Menlo Park shoppers can currently buy liquor from chain stores downtown such as Trader Joe’s and Safeway. Neither has expressed concern about the BevMo application. Perhaps they believe doing so would be considered hypocritical. Or perhaps they accept competition from all sides as a given in this market. Regardless, their fate also hangs in the balance. Do we want Safeway to leave town? How about Trader Joe’s? How would that affect our downtown character?

It is clear that the vision of a healthy future downtown must allow for both locally owned and chain stores to do business here. Menlo Park should be proud that its locally owned businesses can stand up to any competitor, regardless of size, because customers vote with their wallets every day to keep them here. We have a local Café Borrone that is very popular, even though a McDonald’s is less than a block away.

What you are deciding tonight is not whether to expand the footprint of chain stores in the downtown. Rather, it is whether to improve our downtown by filling an empty storefront at a site that has historically been the location of a chain store. I urge you to uphold the Planning Commission decision and approve the BevMo use permit at this location.  

Thank you,  

Harry Bims

Former Menlo Park Planning Commissioner     Received on Sun Nov 07 2010 - 08:03:07 PST


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