Monday, 11 May 2009
Starbuck off - you're nicked!
Yesterday marked a dubious anniversary for St James's Street: a year since the controversial Starbucks coffee shop decided to defy planners and the wishes of local residents by opening its doors without planning permission.
There have been weekly demonstration outside the controversial store, come rain or shine, since then. Saturday's anniversary demo attracted about 70 or 80 people - on a rainy, wintry, day, this has sometimes fallen to just two or three.
But Saturday was a sunny spring day and the community seemed to come out in force: as well as two of us ward councillors (me and Rachel Fryer), we had Louis Louzou from the Sheltered Housing Action Group, several faces from the St James's Street Area Traders group and even Green Party leader and Euro-MP Caroline Lucas (pictured).
There was a singer (of sorts), a stall giving passers-by free hot drinks - and even some impromptu street theatre. It could have been a Brighton Festival event if it wasn't for the police presence (seven at one point!) and the slightly confrontational atmosphere.
Throughout the hour I was there - only four people entered Starbucks, and they were all wearing 'Abercrombie and Fitch' branded shirts. I don't know what that means, mebbe staff in their 'dress down' uniform?
At one point, two lads were arrested, given a warning and sent packing for yelling 'Fuck Starbucks'. I was reliably informed by the officers present that swearing in public is an offence under Section 5 of the Public Order Act - does your mind boggle? Apparently it all comes down to the possibility of accidentally offending passers-by.
I hope the June 10th planning inquiry acccepts that Starbucks is bad for local businesses, local residents - and local democracy - and can find a legal solution for that list of offences to all of us, whether we're passing by or not.