News

Menlo council approves BevMo with 3-2 vote

 

"Eagerly anticipated" is not the first phrase that comes to mind for Menlo Park residents contemplating the next City Council meeting.

Yet it may have applied on Nov. 9, when residents filled the council chambers to see whether the council would uphold the Planning Commission's decision to let Beverages & More (BevMo) open a store in a spot that has sat empty for 18 months in the strip mall at 700 El Camino Real, which also houses Staples and Big 5.

The council voted 3-2 in favor of BevMo, with Kelly Fergusson and Heyward Robinson dissenting on the grounds that another liquor store would not be a convenience for city residents, given the Safeway right across the street and the total 17 liquor stores already in Menlo Park.

The stack of comment cards from people wanting to speak at the meeting equaled two-and-a-half hours of public comments, according to the city clerk, with several speakers sporting "No on BevMo" lapel stickers.

A binder holding all of the correspondence received from residents about the store, provided by city staff, looked five inches thick, with the majority opposing BevMo.

City Attorney Bill McClure explained the council could consider only whether the store would provide a public convenience or necessity, and whether a liquor store would be an appropriate use of the site regardless of who the applicant was.

Resident Maureen Hogan, who had filed the appeal of the Planning Commission's decision, presented a succinct argument for denial based on lack of need and convenience, but in the end failed to sway a majority of the council.

"The staff report said 1,500 Menlo Park residents have a BevMo card. So they're already traveling to a BevMo store. How can we argue it's not more convenient for those people to get it locally? Of course it's convenient to be able to have your choice of stores and products," Vice Mayor John Boyle said.

The approval included a request by Councilman Andy Cohen for a review of the store's use permit after two years, one year sooner than the Planning Commission had requested.

No problem, said Jeff Sealy, BevMo's vice president of real estate, who also agreed a few minutes later that miniature "airplane" bottles of liquor would be kept in locked display cases instead of next to the checkout line after Councilman Robinson, who waved an airplane bottle of alcohol that he'd bought for 99 cents at a local BevMo, mentioned that he found the appeal to "one for the road" impulse buys worrisome.

Robinson also requested that BevMo not sell caffeinated alcoholic beverages in Menlo Park.

Comments

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Posted by James
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2010 at 11:18 am

What is the benefit of "BevMo"? As stated in this article, "...another liquor store would not be a convenience for city residents, given the Safeway right across the street and the total 17 liquor stores already in Menlo Park." As a Palo Alto native and former resident of Menlo Park for many years, I agree with this concern. What IS the need for another bottle shop? If money is the issue, will Menlo Park convert old movie theaters into casinos? What does the MP city council plan for Menlo Park? Aside from the obvious topic of "booze", it is questionable what another large store, with high levels of short-stay shoppers, will do to already clogged local traffic and parking. It also provides yet another new venue for police calls and loitering. It could even spark a "small business" crisis when the "big box" forces half of the "17 liquor stores already in Menlo Park" to close due to lost business to loss-leader pricing from BevMo. So many pitfalls to this idea - Menlo City Council, what are three of you thinking??


Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 10, 2010 at 11:26 am

How come the Weekly has not reported on the story that surfaced last week that Beltramo sent a memo to all of his employees that they had to attend the council meeting (it was MANDATORY) and oppose BevMo.

Web Link

If this is not illegal, it is certainly unethical.
We have the case of a local business owner who may have acted in an inappropriate manner. The Weekly should look into this and do a story on it.


Like this comment
Posted by Cake
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 10, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Svatoid, what's wrong with that. Beltramo's can do whatever they need to protect their business.


Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 10, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Cake--you should read the article.
It states:
"California Labor Code Section 110 states that employers cannot control or forbid the political activities or affiliations of employees."

But, do you really think that ane employer has the right to order his employees to attend council meetings?
Why do you think Beltramo has to "protect" his business? Can he firebomb the new BevMo (after all you say he can do whatever he needs to protect his business) Sounds to me like he is engaging in the supression of the free market. Should cities get into the issue of what kind of stores are allowed? Do you think city officials should be favoring one business over another as part of thier policy?
Either way, I think Beltramo acted in an unethical manner and this warrants an investigation. I can assure you that I will no longer shop at Beltramos


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2010 at 8:46 pm

What's the point rehashing something that's been approved? For north Palo Altans, they get a closer BevMo,the south Palo Altans can go to the one in MV. Trying to dictate how other cities gain revenue in these hard times is ridiculous, espec on a street fulla big box stores all up & down the south bay & peninsula.

The Alamanac included info about the reputed pressure of beltramo employees to attend last night's meeting: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Jay
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 11, 2010 at 10:51 am

I think it's ridiculous to put another liquor store in MP. There are so many more kinds of stores that could go in that space that would be a positive voice in the community. Having big chain stores Also takes away the charm of a town.


Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 11, 2010 at 11:10 am

"There are so many more kinds of stores that could go in that space that would be a positive voice in the community."
Then why has the space sat empty for so long?

"Having big chain stores Also takes away the charm of a town. "
Should Safeway, Starbucks, Trader Joes etc. be asked to leave MP so that it can maintain it's "charm"?


Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Don't miss the point. A 3-2 council vote is not a "done deal", as it can be appealed and overturned. It is all up the community action to get it done.

I don't care about Beltramo's objections, or their ownership's stupid mandates to employees; perhaps this is how "old El Camino" handled business in the 1930's. The real point is "how many" is "too many"? Is discount booze more essential to quality of life in Menlo Park and Palo Alto? There is no upside to liquor businesses, people drink and get drunk. Whoopee.

Take a stand to make a better city and home. Stores like Safeway, Starbucks, Trader Joe's offer products and services that are not narrowly focused on one primary commodity. They do not detract from the community. Big liquor stores just make it easier for more people, including minors, to get alcohol. The effects of this are well known and it takes more than 12 steps to get rid of this once you've allowed it to come in.

Think! Do you LIKE the El Camino north of Menlo Park and south of Palo Alto? Keep welcoming BevMo, etc. and you'll have it soon enough.


Like this comment
Posted by Former Employee
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 12, 2010 at 2:12 pm

@James: FYI, BevMo does not have loss leaders. The company is fully committed to earning at least 25% margin per store. The reason why it seems like BevMo is taking a hit is due to the significant mark ups you see at grocery and small independent stores. The type of stores that take loss leaders are places like Cost Plus, which cover the loss with high margin furniture.

Stores like Beltramo's can compete with BevMo by offering competitive pricing. Of course, offering competitive pricing means that Beltramo's will be making less money due to lower margins, but that is one of the risks of business.

I'm a former employee of BevMo, and not it's biggest fan, but I feel the company has the right to enter already competitive markets. I guarantee you that the biggest competitor of a Menlo Park BevMo will be the Redwood City BevMo. BevMo has a habit of cannibalizing its own stores.

Ultimately, consumers will choose whether or not BevMo has a place in Menlo Park by voting with their checkbooks. As 1,500 Menlo Park residents already have Club Bev cards, I'm thinking this location will succeed.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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