San Carlos weighs coffee-house limits

Some downtown caféowners are asking the city to ban additional coffee shops on part of Laurel Street, including a proposed Starbucks.

Hans Siemers, owner of the Uptown Café at 769 Laurel St., has collected more than 1,200 signatures in support of a moratorium on more cafés on the 600, 700 and 800 blocks of Laurel Street. The City Council tonight will consider the proposal, which Siemers said is in the interest of the city as well as the roughly 10 coffee sellers on Laurel.

“We need more diversity to draw people downtown,” Siemers said. “[Adding more coffee shops] doesn’t bring more money into the city. It dilutes the customer base.”

Although Siemers does not wish to target Starbucks specifically, the moratorium would prevent the Seattle-based chain from installing a store on the 800 block of Laurel Street. It already operates an outlet at the corner of Laurel Street and San Carlos Avenue.

Starbucks representatives could not be reached for comment.

More coffee shops, particularly those run by corporate chains, could drive mom-and-pop shops out of business, Mayor Matt Grocott said. But disallowing them could discourage the economic development San Carlos is actively courting, he added.

Businesses on Laurel Street are divided, according to Sheryl Pomerenk, president of the San Carlos Chamber of Commerce.

“On the 600 and 700 blocks, there are a lot of little coffee shops, but the people on the 800 block are happy Starbucks is coming because they feel it will add foot traffic,” she said.

In San Mateo, coffee shop owners sought a similar moratorium last year in response to 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 pursue the ban.

“We believe the marketplace should be the decider,” San Mateo Councilmember Carole Groom said. “The property owners should get to pick and choose, and that’s the way it should be.”

But the addition of Peet’s — and a Starbucks kiosk in the new Century movie theater on Second Avenue — is hurting downtown, according to Riyad Khoury, owner of Bean Street Coffee on B Street.

“They are creating a city with no individuality. San Mateo is becoming like a food court with nothing cultural in it.”

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

bwinegarner@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocalPeninsula

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