By Jonathan Friedman
16, 2009 --
A group representing Main Street
businesses lobbied the City Council last week to give the
local eateries higher preference when it comes to who can
sell prepared or prepackaged food at the Main Street Farmers
A Farmers Market guidelines book proposed to the City Council
states “First preference given to applicants whose
established restaurant resides within the local business
district of the market to which they are applying.”
However, City staff also proposed a scoring sheet for determining
vendors that has “Food Quality” as the top item.
As many as 40 points can be awarded in that category. Meanwhile
“Business Location” can only earn an applicant
up to 20 points.
“As it is, restaurants and food establishments already
have to compete with what goes on in the market,”
said Gary Gordon, head of the Main Street Business Improvement
Association. “To have to compete also to get into
the market strikes a lot of people as less than support
for the Main Street District.”
Gordon proposed a complex alternative scoring system that
would favor nearby restaurants. The council members did
not necessarily support his alternative, but several agreed
more needed to be done to support the Main Street eateries.
“We have stated many times that we believe in a sustainable,
local economy,” Council member Kevin McKeown said.
“And we should in our rules for our farmers market
be doing what we can to encourage sustainable, local businesses.”
Council member Bobby Shriver called making food quality
the top item on the scoring sheet “problematic at
best and absurd at worst.” Council member Gleam Davis
said it was “troubling” because food quality
“What tastes great to me might not taste great to
somebody else,” Davis said.
Council member Robert Holbrook proposed a minimum of four
slots at the market be reserved for locally prepared food.
Other council members also disagreed with the proposed
concept of limiting competition at the market for prepared
items. If one person sells an item, others cannot do so.
Shriver called that concept, “whimsical.
The council approved the new guidelines, which affect all
farmers markets in Santa Monica, except for the prepared food
and competition issues. City staff will come back with a proposal
regarding those items at a later meeting.