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Thread: Franchise Bans

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Franchise Bans

    Franchise bans - good way to protect community character and small businesses, or an unfair impedement to proven, successful businesses?

    Here's a local example of a preservation group vs. Dunkin Donuts. (Its funny how frank this woman is)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    I think it may be a good way to protect certain character/historic areas that would be destroyed with corporate architecture, colors, and signage. Though historic overlays generally already include protections. The only place I have been that I recall not having any chains is Telluride, CO. No idea how they do it, but you could Google.

  3. #3
    I guess I disagree with the idea of trying to ban all of these national chains. I think that you can preserve community character without going so far as to ban them. You can enact a strict sign ordinance, you can ban any drive-through service, you can mandate strict architectural standards, maximum building area, and strict parking requirements. These types of restrictions will make your area less desirable for many chains and the ones that do decide to locate their must adhere to the community's "look." The book “Aesthetics, Community Character, and the Law” is a great resource for people who want to regulate chain restaurants in a manner that preserves community character.

    I also have no idea how they can enforce the provisions of the ordinance about banning companies that mandate a standard menu and uniform. How can you tell Starbucks that they can come in, but they can’t use their standard menu? Who decides what constitutes a standard menu? Are there a menu police that come in and make sure they haven’t changed it? Same with uniforms.
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    As much as I complain about franchises, I agree with Repo Man. Besides, how do you define "chain store." In San Francisco, complaints were heard about Berkeley music retailer "invading" the Haight when they opened a store in he City. Amoeba Records is nonetheless a huge success, and a few of the "High Fidelity" type operations have sadly faded away.

    On the other hand, just because some marketing "expert" tells you that every one of your stores has to look the same across the country doesn't mean you can ignore local character.

  5. #5

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    There are a few places that ban franchises, all using variations of the same legal themes. I think my wife used Calistoga, CA as an example in some work she was doing.

    I think a community should have the right to be different, and that necessarily they have a right to ban the standard menus, uniforms, etc, as well as to use all of the design approaches people have mentioned. Standardization is fine for, say, metric wrench sizes, but it is not an element of building strong communities.

  6. #6
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    St. Helena CA has an absolute ban on chain retail of any kind. Carmel and Pacific Grove CA ban formula restaurants. Monterey does not ban them but prohibits formula design downtown, even if restaurant is a formula restaurant.

    Each situation is different. If a city's economy is based on truly unique retail and restaurants, chains lower the drawing power and thereby weaken the economy. Even high end chains are a drag on towns with very unique retail shops and restaurants. There aren't many of those towns around.

    Another factor is that prohibiting chains will allow more local serving uses. St. Helena is a very high end community with a lot of remaining hometown businesses. If chains had been allowed, those businesses would certainly have been priced out of the real estate market years ago. The process is much slower (but still happening) because chains aren't allowed.

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    You beat me to it!

    I was planning on posting this story here tonight, Seabishop, but you beat me!

    I think it's funny that this is over a Dunkin Donuts, because despite it being a giant chain, Dunkin is practically a part of the local community. RI has the highest concentration of stores, they're based in nearby Mass, and the franchisees are locals.

    One of my big problems with the big chains is the way they leverage their economic advantages to put similar local businesses out of business. A Starbucks can open across the street from an established local coffee shop (LCS) and lose money for years because profits from other Starbucks prop it up, while it slowly chips away at the market share of the LCS. Once the LCS starts losing money, it has to close, and now the Starbucks is the only game in the area.

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    How do these places deal with the legality issue? Is the sale of donuts a prohibited use, or just the sale of Dunkin Donuts? I would think this practice runs afoul of many laws, from interstate commerce to free speech to zoning.
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    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    How do these places deal with the legality issue? Is the sale of donuts a prohibited use, or just the sale of Dunkin Donuts? I would think this practice runs afoul of many laws, from interstate commerce to free speech to zoning.
    Zoning deals with classes of uses. If a formula use can be defined as a "class" that class can be allowed or not allowed. Formula uses are often defined by multiple ownerships or standardized design and product.

    Be grateful that zoning still remains local and you don't have too many folks comparing donuts to free speech or that the right to carry a donut over state lines means the Feds can force cities to allow specified land uses.

  10. #10
    I Think Arcata, Ca bans any chain with more than three stores. Their definition of a chain. The town five miles up the road, Mckinleyville, will gladly accept the chain stores. Mckinleyville is where all the employees of HSU live.
    Last edited by The Irish One; 23 Mar 2004 at 11:23 AM.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    I have been told that Oxford Ms does not allow chains on the square, but the by pass is full of them.

    The sqaure is full of "eclectic" local resturants and stores. It is interesting in the contrast here in this small town between the two areas. The by pass is so bland and cookie cutter sprawled while the sqaure is so tranquil and full of charm; it sure makes a good case for not allowing chains in your hisotical district.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    How do these places deal with the legality issue? Is the sale of donuts a prohibited use, or just the sale of Dunkin Donuts? I would think this practice runs afoul of many laws, from interstate commerce to free speech to zoning.
    The article doesn't get into this but I think they would only want to ban chains in the historic downtown area. The other side of town is already full of chain stores. I don't know if it would help their case legally if chains aren't allowed downtown but are allowed out on the commercial arterial. I can't imagine the state general assembly passing the enabling legislation for this.

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    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    I've also heard of ordinances in CA and Cape Cod where towns say you have to serve your food on plates with silverware (and they ban the drive-thru).
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  14. #14
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    San Francisco is looking into it.

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    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Repo Man
    I guess I disagree with the idea of trying to ban all of these national chains. I think that you can preserve community character without going so far as to ban them. You can enact a strict sign ordinance, you can ban any drive-through service, you can mandate strict architectural standards, maximum building area, and strict parking requirements. These types of restrictions will make your area less desirable for many chains and the ones that do decide to locate their must adhere to the community's "look." The book “Aesthetics, Community Character, and the Law” is a great resource for people who want to regulate chain restaurants in a manner that preserves community character.
    I'm with Repo Man on this one. I guess the question is, what are you trying to accomplish by banning chains? Franchise operations are often locally-owned, and probably make more purchases locally than other types of chains. Can you really argue that a chain of three or four stores is undesirable? This is a different issue than "big boxes," I think...

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess
    I'm with Repo Man on this one. I guess the question is, what are you trying to accomplish by banning chains? Franchise operations are often locally-owned, and probably make more purchases locally than other types of chains. Can you really argue that a chain of three or four stores is undesirable? This is a different issue than "big boxes," I think...
    And also just about every business is a chain - gas stations, hotels, hair salons, etc. Where do you draw the line with local ownership?

  17. #17
    Cyburbian MD Planner's avatar
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    Here in my town we don't have a ban on chains but we do have a prohibition on corporate architecture. Our Comp Plan is very clear that we want to be unique and not look like everywhere else. The problem I have is that thus far the Planning Commission has been reluctant to get into design standards. So we have to tell applicants to give us someting that is not "franchise." I'm all for creativity but then when they come in to the meeting and a majority of the Commission says they don't like the design the applicant has to start all over. We've got to give them something to work with. That's the battle I'm currently fighting.
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  18. #18
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop
    And also just about every business is a chain - gas stations, hotels, hair salons, etc. Where do you draw the line with local ownership?
    this is funny because when i'd bring friends home from the army they'd invariably say "i don't recognize any of these store names" as we'd pass by the strip malls that line the highway on the approach to my parents house.

    They figured that the "Luigi's Pizza" and "Miller's Pharmacy" were national chains that they'd just never heard of.

    At the time i had a very shallow understanding of it but i'd manage to explain that we just don't have a lot of big chains like they do in North Carolina - where nearly everything is a franchise. That these stores were family owned - it was incomprehensible that you could have local business in a strip mall.

    Likewise you don't find one fast food restaurant after another along the highway. You'll find family owned diners, pizza places, sub shops, etc. That's not to say you can't find PetSmart or the Haircuttery but it's much easier to find a local pet shop or barber.

    I think it might be the usual suspects - population density, education, and access to capital.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  19. #19
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The Irish One
    I Think Arcata, Ca bans any chain with more than three stores. Their definition of a chain. The town five miles up the road, Mckinleyville, will gladly accept the chain stores. Mckinleyville is where all the employees of HSU live.
    Arcata would be a fun place to live. It has a variety of housing and some very interesting shops. Living in McKinleyville is like living in ... well, almost anywhere. If you've seen one suburb, you've seen McKinleyville.

    That's what is preserved when a very interesting place prohibits chains. It stays interesting. There aren't very many. But for the few that exist, prohibiting chains makes economic and planning sense.

  20. #20
    Wulf,

    I agree with your statements. Especially since Arcata is sandwiched between Eureka and Mckinleyville which have chain stores. I think Eureka has put some restrictions on chains. I know they were getting a wal greens last time I was there. Garberville is another place that should keep its character but, we'll see.

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