Community Board Ponders Ways to Encourage Butchers Over Barkeepers

EV Shoe Repair 3Sarah C. Tung Sign at EV Shoe Repair

After drafting a letter to landlords promoting retail diversity in the face of a nightlife glut, Community Board 3 has formed a subcommittee that may take some of its cues from San Francisco legislation.

On Tuesday, Community Board 3 announced that it had drafted a letter to local landlords asking them to respond to a “high demand for more daytime retail business such as grocers, butchers, shoe stores, stationery stores and other businesses that serve our local residents” rather than moving further in the current direction of “too many bars and eating/drinking businesses.”

During a meeting of the Economic Development committee last night, Mary DeStefano, an urban fellow for the board, outlined several strategies to insure such growth, including formula business restrictions, a measure that she said had proved successful in San Francisco. The move would limit the amount of chains by requiring a “formula business,” defined as “a restaurant or store that has 11 or more locations nationally,” to apply for a special permit, she said.

East Village GroceryShawn Hoke

Ms. DeStefano also recommended limiting hours of operation by requiring any new business seeking to stay open after a certain time to secure a permit. She believed this strategy would help “level the playing field between restaurants and retail.”

A third strategy was to put caps on the size of stores by establishing a maximum square footage and require a permit for those that want more footage. Ms. DeStefano cited Belfast, Maine, where she said stores larger than 75,000 square feet must seek a permit.

Ms. DeStefano recommended the creation of a “Special Purpose District,” and “overlay on top of a previously zoned area,” where these regulations would be enacted.

“It’s not a ban,” she stressed. “It’s a method to get some more control.”

Board member Natasha Dillon said, “I like the formula because I don’t like chain stores,” but was concerned that, according to Ms. DeStefano, a substantial number of San Francisco businesses received permits. “It doesn’t sound that effective,” she said.

Susan Stetzer, the board’s district manager, said, “I think people are mixing up banning and restricting. This is saying we don’t want four [chains] on one block. We don’t want it on a residential street; we want it on a commercial street. People are not saying no Dunkin’ Donuts or Subway. They’re cheap. People need them. But we’re saying we don’t want four on one block.”

This morning, EV Grieve found Department of Buildings records that show a new Subway outpost will open up on First Avenue between Sixth and Seventh Streets, right near the shuttered Polonia restaurant.

One member called the plan “ambitious and a great start,” but several argued that there is little room for subjectivity in the selection process.

Several board members discussed whether there should be financial support from chain stores to help local businesses. “Are we not going to go to chain stores and say, ‘Give us some money to support local and smaller stores?'” asked board member Meghan Joye. Other members chimed in that such a move would require legislation. Board members also requested more research on what kind of financial incentives, if any, were offered for businesses under these strategies.

The subcommittee will reconvene in about a month to further discuss the fellow’s findings. In the meantime, Community Board 3’s letter to landlords is reprinted below.

Letter to Landlords