by Sam Hieb
Two very interesting articles over the weekend about government’s role in the foodservice industry, albeit from very different angles.
First up is my hometown N&O’s write-up on the City of Raleigh’s plan to extend the lease of Bolt Bistro & Bar, which has operated out of Raleigh’s building on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh since 2012. That deal came with conditions, as would the proposed future deal (emphasis mine):
….Raleigh signed Bolt to a 10-year lease and required the new tenant to serve more affordable food, including bistro-style options and tapas.
Now four years in, Bolt is ready to embed itself deeper into the city property.
David Sadeghi, Bolt’s co-owner, recently made the city an extension offer. Sadeghi says he will pay for $100,000 in building renovations if Raleigh extends his lease to 2032, waives nine to 12 months of rent payments and allows Bolt to have greater menu flexibility, according to a May 20 memo published by City Manager Ruffin Hall.
…Council members reached for comment said they generally support extending Bolt’s lease and want to see menu changes, but withheld further comment until Bolt and city staff agree on an extension proposal.
“Generally, I don’t think the city should be a landlord,” said council member Bonner Gaylord. “However, we do own the building so I’m OK with a restaurant.”
It should go without saying—although the owner of the nearby Cafe Carolina and Bakery did say it—that the city’s involvement in Bistro gives it an unfair advantage while simultaneously dictating what is and isn’t on the menu.
Meanwhile, here in my adopted hometown of Greensboro, an N&R op-ed praises the City Council for setting aside $1 million in the upcoming budget for the proposed Fresh Food Access Plan. But the writers want the city to do so much more:
(W)e contend that the City Council should play a catalytic role in building an economy based on locally owned businesses and local producers, preferably cooperatively or community-owned. Such ownership will result in a large proportion of the revenue generated by consumers in local businesses.
Income will remain, circulating in the local economy, thus building up the volume of business and creating more local jobs. Consequently, a steady recycling of income contributes to capital formation that remains primarily local. Moreover, locally owned businesses typically sell to local customers — household and businesses — that make the latter less inclined to leave, taking their jobs with them.
These are the “multipliers” that help to take a local economy from subsistence toward abundance. In the final analysis, the eradication of a food desert requires capital formation and its constant circulation locally. Of course, we don’t rule out bigger outside enterprises. But growth has to make sense economically. An advantage of small and medium businesses is that they enhance not only household income but also stimulate household and/or community wealth.
What we envision here is an economy of scale that fundamentally addresses the needs and desires of communities.
So basically they want the city to provide the money to buy the food and the food itself. The logical step is for the city to come into the homes and cook the food while they’re at it. I read stuff like this and the first word that comes to mind is paternalism. I realize that word has racist origins from times past, but in today’s society dominated by statist thinking it takes on a whole new meaning, symbolized by local government’s entry into the foodservce business.