So-Called "Fast Food" Controversy Finds Tenuous Resolution in Carmel
September 13, 2011
(Note: City Council made a ruling on David Fink's new gourmet burger joint tonight. Scroll down to skip to the verdict.)
It's not every day you can use "interesting" and "city council meeting" in the same sentence.
But if recent rumblings are any indication, it is gonna be one interesting City Council meeting in Carmel starting right about now (Sept. 13).
That's when public session will address a request for a variance from longtime community hospitality-restaurant David Fink.
As I wrote last week:
There are plenty of intriguing story lines circling a skirmish over a proposed eatery-by-the-sea. Carmel’s premiere hotelier-restaurateur wants to extend his impressive record of new businesses with a concept not seen around here. Opposing sides both evoke our current economic malaise as a reason to see things their way. And some critics feel it could corrupt the very character of Carmel itself. Still, all that poignant plot-thickening doesn’t offer as much entertainment value as the irony at its core: That the name of the gourmet burger joint David Fink would love to put in at Carmel Plaza, though it would require a variance from current rules, is slated to be called “What’s Your Beef?” Opponents’ beef is that the L’Auberge/Cantinetta Luca owner’s new 79-seater, with its overhead menu, walk-up counter and absence of table service, breaks rules that are there for a reason. (In Carmel, there are two types of eateries. “Specialty” restaurants – like bakeries and coffee shops – can't have over-the-counter meals make up more than 10 percent of sales. “Full-line” restaurants must maintain a wait staff, table service and menus. Carmel Belle would be the lucky exception, thanks to a use permit that’s grandfathered in.)
Click here for the rest of "Sizzling Beef: Hot controversy on the grill in Carmel." In short, Fink wants to be able to have a walk-up-style upscale burger joint, and opponents believe it will set a precedent that will lead to slashed staffs and a rash of taquerias.
Herald food writer Mike Hale picked up on the action too. It may be a foretaste of the fiesty feast to come tonight that one of the loudest critics, Preston Kincaid, took Hale to task for what he felt was incomplete reporting with a blog entry he titled "Monterey Herald Misses the Point."
Fink and his team have been pretty disciplined in their comments (or, more accurately, lack thereof). One spokesperson has given me two portentous tastes, though:
One of the new names under consideration is "Plaza Burger."
Fink and friends are "expecting a regular old donnybrook at the City Council meeting on Tuesday regarding our Burger concept."
I'll spare you the wider inanity of Tuesday's Carmel City Council meeting. (It will not make you smarter: At one point I am pretty sure Councilman Jason Burnett and Mayor Sue McCloud were debating the meaning of the words "shall" and "also.")
The bottom line (or bun): David Fink got the 4-1 vote he needed to proceed with his controversial burger joint.
But that wasn't my favorite moment. That would've been one of these.
• At one point Burnett, the lone dissenting vote, said, "This is a difficult situation, partly because I'm hungry and the food sounds really good."
• Councilwoman Paula Hazdovac announced, "I don't know how Carmel's going to go completely down the tubes with this idea, I mean, we once had a Golden West pancake house."
• Carmel tastemaker Rich Pepe took the mic and asked, in not so many words, "We all play by the same rules…Is it OK for David Fink to run stop signs too?" and admitted to thinking, "Am I an idiot for not putting a counter at one of my restaurants?"
• Hazdovac reported that she has a lot of people ask her, "Where can I take my family for some simple, inexpensive fare?" and doesn't know where to recommend they go.
At that, surprisingly spicy former councilwoman and vocal burger joint opponent Barbara Livingston yelled from the audience (against meeting protocol): "Take 'em to the library!"