Coffee shop ban may not go forward

City officials may choose to let the market decide just how many local and chain coffee shops downtown can handle.

The San Carlos City Council will determine Monday whether to go forward with a local coffeehouse owner’s request for a moratorium on more coffee shops on Laurel Avenue, or heed recommendations from the city’s planning and economic advisory commissions to avoid setting limits on such businesses. Uptown Cafe owner Hans Siemers asked the city in May to consider the ban after he learned a second Starbucks was opening on Laurel, kicking off a hefty debate.

The city’s Planning Commission voted against the moratorium Aug. 2. While Mayor Matt Grocott has not taken a formal position in the coffee shop debate, he does want to prevent national retailers from being able to put local mom-and-pop stores out of business.

“My concern wasn’t so much with the coffee shop as much as it was with national retail,” Grocott said. “I think the residents of San Carlos appreciate having a downtown that’s doesn’t look like every other downtown in suburban America.”

San Carlos’ second downtown Starbucks opened this summer, and so far has had little effect on the Uptown Cafe’s business, Seimers said.

However, there are rumors that it’s taking 50 percent of the other Starbucks’ customers away.

Despite the lack of support for the moratorium, Seimers is glad the city has paid so much attention to his request — and the 1,200 signatures he gathered to support it.

“The end result may not be what we’d like to see, but the fact that it received a fair hearing, that’s significant,” Seimers said.

San Carlos’ coffeehouse brouhaha echoes Bay Area-wide efforts to block chain stores. In San Mateo, coffee shop owners opposed the addition of a Peet’s Coffee and Tea downtown. Despite a petition signed by more than 1,000 people, the City Council refused to put new limits on downtown businesses.

In 2004, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved limits on the expansion of corporate chains, which applies to shopping areas such as Hayes Valley, Cole Valley and the Divisadero Street corridor.

The San Carlos City Council meets Monday at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 600 Elm St.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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