Monday, October 11, 2010

Anti-American Apparel Campaign Founder Goes After Blue Bottle Cart

Posted By on Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 4:41 PM

click to enlarge Stephen Elliott.
  • Stephen Elliott.
Stephen Elliott.
Stephen Elliott, local author (The Adderall Diaries, Happy Baby) and the man who launched last year's successful grassroots campaign to keep an American Apparel store out of the Mission, learned out about the Blue Bottle coffee cart going into Dolores Park last Tuesday. The more he learned, the angrier he got.

This was after the Sept. 27 Park and Rec meeting where many of the local opponents of the cart voiced their opposition. He was at the subsequent meeting last Thursday, though, at which Park and Rec granted final approval to the permit giving Blue Bottle as well as La Cocina -- and its subtenant, El Huarache Loco -- the right to set up mobile food trailers in the park.

Now Elliott, backed by many of the same opponents mentioned in previous posts about this topic (our past coverage is indexed below), has started a blog, Stop the Trailer. As he did with the previous campaign he launched, he's designing postcards and posters to distribute.

In an interview with SFoodie, Elliott says his main objection to the

Blue Bottle cart is that the process wasn't transparent to the

neighbors/prospective competitors, many of whom are leading the

opposition to the cart. "If this had gone through the planning

department like any brick and mortar business," Elliott says, "it would have

been required to post signs in the window for several weeks. And there

would have to be a hearing.

But this was done through parks and recreation, and it was unfair

competition." He's also concerned that the lines in front of the cart will

further burden what he calls an "overstressed park," and that added

traffic won't make up for the revenue the carts generate.

Elliott's

other objections to the Blue Bottle cart are somewhat half-formed. He's

not aware of the specifics of the La Cocina cart, since that wasn't

discussed much at the meeting he attended, and doesn't want to discuss

it until he has more information. He defends the park as a

commercial-free zone, but the pot-truffle vendors (and possibly El Huarache Loco) are exempt from his

condemnation. He'd

like Parks and Rec to revoke the current permits granted to Blue Bottle,

and suggests the department ask neighborhood

businesses to come up with the $30,000 that Blue Bottle estimates

they'll pay the city annually in rent. Blue Bottle, Elliott says, is a

$20 million business with the funds to absorb the loss of the park

license, and could surely find another use for the trailer.

James

Freeman, Blue Bottle's owner, was unaware of Elliott's website until

SFoodie contacted him, and said he had a very reasonable discussion

with the author at the October 7 meeting, though they disagreed about much. (As

for the $20 million figure, it's far below the company's revenue, he

says; he would not speculate on whether it reflects the current value of the

business.)

Right now, Freeman says, Blue Bottle is proceeding "on an as if basis,"

making final adjustments to bring the trailer to code and training the

staff. Many of his customers have expressed their anger about the brouhaha. "Ultimately, we don't get outraged," Freeman says. "That's not a

mentality that occurs to me. However, I don't want to send my people

into a place where they're going to get into a lot of conflict. It

doesn't matter if I think I'm right or wrong.

The cart was never going to be a huge business for us -- we have to pay

two hours' labor just to get there, and two more to clean up, so that's

four hours we're not selling coffee but paying labor. I did this because

I thought it was going to be charming and innocuous."

Anyone interested in joining the discussion is invited to a meeting at Dolores Park Cafe (501 Dolores) on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 8:30 p.m. Elliott says that all opinions are welcome; however, the Blue Bottle cart opponents' future actions will be discussed there.

A timeline of SFoodie coverage of the cart and anti-cart protests:

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