WatchSonoma Watch

Peet’s Coffee runs afoul of Sonoma chain store rules


In a first test of Sonoma’s new rules governing so-called formula stores, the city planning commission has narrowly rejected a use permit for Berkeley-based Peet’s Coffee and Tea to open an outlet near the historic city plaza.

The city in June became one of the few in the nation to enact regulations on chain establishments, including a ban on large-scale restaurant chains with more than 250 outlets from opening on the plaza.

Sonoma Plaza (PD FILE, 2004)

Peet’s is proposing to open a store at 591 Broadway in what is now a vacant office building. The site is outside the area where the city’s ban on formula restaurants applies. With 198 outlets, Peet’s is below that threshold anyway.

Nevertheless, the Sonoma Planning Commission on Thursday voted 4-3 to deny the use permit. Peet’s has until Sept. 28 to appeal the decision to the City Council.

A Peet’s spokeswoman declined Friday to discuss the company’s plans. “It is Peet’s policy not to discuss matters relating to new store openings until a lease has been signed,” said Elizabeth Sgarrella.

David Goodison, the city planning director, said a majority of commissioners said that Peet’s could not meet one particular test of the city’s new formula store ordinance, which is that the establishment promote diversity and variety and cater to both residents and visitors.

But Sonoma Mayor Joanne Sanders, who has steadfastly opposed the ordinance, on Friday said Peet’s would be a good fit for the city.

“I think there are plenty of people in Sonoma who would go there, and do go there when they are in other places,” she said.

Apart from a Peet’s representative and the property owner, the only person to speak at Thursday’s public hearing was David Mock, who owns a drive-through coffee business on Broadway.

He expressed concern that Peet’s would adversely affect his business and diminish the uniqueness of Sonoma’s downtown, according to Goodison.

Sonoma’s consideration of an ordinance governing formula stores was sparked after Staples opened last year on West Napa Street in a 14,400-square-foot building that had been a Ford dealership.

An ad-hoc committee led by Councilman Steve Barbose spent weeks crafting proposed changes to the zoning ordinance. Other than through design review, the city did not regulate chain stores.

Under the ordinance, all formula businesses seeking to open at the plaza or in the city’s historical district must get use permits. A formula business is defined as one with 10 or more outlets, excluding hotels, offices, financial institutions and other service businesses.

A formula business seeking to open in a space of 10,000 square feet or larger anywhere in the city also will be subject to use-permit review.

The site where Peet’s wants to open is across the street from a vacant fire station where the company originally had intentions of locating once the station was redeveloped, a plan that never got off the ground with the collapse of redevelopment agencies across the state.

11 Responses to “Peet’s Coffee runs afoul of Sonoma chain store rules”

  1. CaliWineFan says:

    Although a large chain, I agree with NoMoreFreeEnterprise – Peets is considerably less invasive than Starbucks, yet there is always a double standard – Perhaps the branding of the coffee giant?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Critic at Large says:

    If a coffee shop is not fit for downtown Sonoma, what type of business is? Another candle or tee shirt shop?

    Sonoma, get over your big egos and keep it real. Sonoma isn’t Carmel after all.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. Follower says:

    I buy my coffee exclusively from Starbucks just because they’re huge, “evil corporation”.

    …unless I’m in Marin, then I go to Lacoppa Coffee in Novato.
    Not because the coffee there is “better” but because it SO MUCH BETTER!

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. Snarky says:

    Local government has no business dictating which business should or should not be opening in Sonoma County nor in any of the cities within Sonoma County.

    The entire country of the USA was founded by people fleeing dictatorial government demands in Europe. Now, we see that the greedy , power hungry government people of America have developed that same attitude… THEY decide what is best for us.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  5. Maggie says:

    I can no longer drink Peet’s coffee as they are to be sold to the conglomerate that makes the deadly rat poison D-con. This poison is one of many that is killing our wildlife, through direct and secondary poisoning. The EPA directed the companies to STOP selling their poisons in retail outlets over a year ago, and D-con continues to defy the ruling and is pressuring the EPA to back down. I predict the next new drink on the no-longer-local Peets menu will be a nice D-con Decaf. Please don’t patronize Peet’s Coffee! They no longer can say they are part of the community when their parent company is poisoning pets, wildlife and children!

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  6. NoMoreFreeEnterprise says:

    Sonoma won’t let Peet’s Coffee into the city… You can always go to one of the two Starbucks. Does anyone else find that odd? Mr. Mock… This is free enterprise at its best. If your store (sorry… drive thru) is so good, why worry about a little competition?

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  7. MendoTech says:

    When I travel to client sites in the Central Valley, I frequently go out of my way on my return trip to have a meal at one of Sonoma’s restaurants. I really enjoy the historical aspects of the plaza as well as the cuisine in several of the restaurants, along with goods from the adjacent shops.

    I now realize that spending time and money in Sonoma is supporting a town that has an extreme anti-business attitude. The fact that the only reason they could cite for denying Peet’s application is that “. . . Peet’s could not meet one particular test of the city’s new formula store ordinance, which is that the establishment promote diversity and variety . . .” is totally bogus, airy-fairy stuff that the libs & their politicians use to stop anything that their little minds don’t like.

    As to Mr. David Mock, who owns a drive-through coffee business on Broadway, I have never been to his business. Now that he has used the power of the Sonoma City Planning Commission to prevent competition, I will make certain to avoid his business. I will also recommend that others do likewise.

    It is obvious that the American idea of free enterprise is DEAD in the city of Sonoma!

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  8. Skippy says:

    The Ministry of Hate has spoken.
    This is the business to hate for the week of 9/16/12.
    Anyone not hating this corporation will be charged with racism and insensitivity, and convicted of a hate crime.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

  9. Sheri Cardo says:

    Sadly, Peet’s is no longer a local company, having been sold to the German Benckiser conglomerate, makers of the rat poison D-Con, infamous for also killing pets and wildlife — and for refusing to take it off the market despite the EPA demanding that it do so. No cup of coffee is worth supporting that toxin. The Sonoma City Council made the right decision.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 23

  10. Skippy says:

    “We don’t want your kind around here.”
    To misquote John Lennon, these days Corporations are the ******* of the world.
    I hope the City keeps me updated so I know who I’m supposed to hate next week.

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 4

  11. Reality Check says:

    But Peet’s did not “run afoul” of Sonoma’s chain store rules. The proposed Peet’s was off the plaza.

    It is certainly up to the good citizens of Sonoma what characteristics they wish to preserve in their California-cute tourist plaza. But shouldn’t a business be able to believe that the set boundaries are the boundaries. Otherwise, they just waste time and money.

    Sonoma sounds like it’s just another California Alice in Wonderland land.

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 4

Leave a Reply