By David F. Rooney
Local cafe owners are very concerned by City Council’s decision on Tuesday, March 25, to approve a development permit for a Starbucks cafe as part of a new Petro Canada station-cum-convenience store complex beside the Mcdonalds on Mutas Road.
Several cafe owners attended the meeting where, with little discussion, Council approved a development permit for the station. (Please click here to read the development permit application.)
“The applicant is proposing to construct a gas station with six fuel pumps, a 1,312 ft2 convenience store and a 1,751 ft2 Starbucks coffee shop with a drive through,” said a report to Council by Revelstoke’s Development Services Manager Dean Strachan. Plans for the development show that it will include parking for 20 vehicles.
Kendra Powell, owner of Mountain Meals, attempted to ask Councillors a question but was not permitted to speak at the meeting. (To be fair to Council, members of the public are generally not permitted to make unsolicited statements and comments during Council meetings.)
However, she did say outside the Council chamber that the prospect of a Starbucks opening along the Trans-Canada Highway is a major concern. Josee Zimanyi, owner of the Modern Bakery, and Goldie Sanghera, owner of Paramjiit’s Kitchen, agreed.
“We wouldn’t care if they opened up downtown,” Josee said outside the Council Chamber. ‘We can compete with them if they were downtown. My concern is that they’ll divert traffic from coming downtown (from the highway).”
Goldie suggested that the city’s cafe owners should organize to let Council know how strongly they feel about this. They will likely hold a meeting to discuss their options sometime in the very near future and said The Current and The Times Review would be invited to cover that meeting.
Ultimately, though, they may not be able to do much about it.
Councillors seemed somewhat blasé about the cafe owners’ concerns when questioned by The Current during their regular post-Council meeting Q&A with the media.
“Should we interfere with business?” asked Councillor Steve Bender.
Past Councils have — on at least one occasion — acted to interfere with a potential business. About nine or 10 years ago the Council of the day quietly passed a bylaw to limit the amount of retail space any business can operate. The legislation was clearly aimed at Wal-Mart, which was said at the time to be looking at Revelstoke as a potential store location, even though that company’s name was never uttered at a Council meeting.
Even so, the answer to Bender’s question clearly has to be ‘No.’ If City Councillors believe they can freely meddle with business they’ll find themselves on a slippery slope.
Still, the cafe owners have a legitimate point: If we allow high-profile brands to divert highway traffic from the city’s core, what effect will that have on the overall health of our business community?
It’s not that long ago — probably about 2004 — that Times Review Cartoonist Rob Buchanan drew an amusing cartoon about the establishment of a Starbucks in the city. As I recall, the cartoon played on some people’s hope of seeing Revelstoke finally, in an urban-culture sense, ‘making it’ on the cafe-scene map.
To my mind our home-grown cafes like the Modern, Sangha Bean, Paramjiit’s, Mountain Meals, Conversations, Main Street, Carrie’s and Twisted Annie’s would have nothing to fear from direct competition by Starbucks that was downtown. However, their concerns about yet another highway development that keeps visitors from discovering what our downtown has to offer are quite possibly valid.