Yonder Cider recently closed its to-go-only retail location in Seattle because one neighbor complained. That’s an oversimplification, but now the City Council is looking at loosening things up a bit.
Humans are interesting creatures. We have really big brains compared to other animals and, across the ages, we have used those big brains to develop skills like reason and logic. At the same time, we cannot escape our primitive, worm-like impulses. We try to behave rationally and objectively, but sometimes we cannot resist obeying our narrow self-interests. We’ll ignore the greater good, the prevailing public sentiment, and the impact on others so long as we get what we want. Reason and logic be damned, I want what I want!
And thus, we have nimbies. But at what point should the age-old, self-serving battle cry, “Not in my backyard,” be ignored? The Seattle City Council is currently considering that question, in part at the behest of Yonder Cider.
We first told you about Yonder Cider back in July, and then again in August when they opened Yonder Bar in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood. Read those stories here.
“What is Yonder Bar you might ask?” said Caitlin Braam of Yonder Cider. “When big plans of a Seattle tasting room were put on hold due to COVID, we got creative and turned my garage into ‘Yonder Bar’, the to-go only retail shop for Yonder Cider.”
By all reports, it was embraced by the neighborhood. Not imposing or offensive, playing by the rules, Yonder Bar served its community. Then along came a nimby.
The city received a complaint that the to-go-only cider window was operating illegally. It wasn’t. Yes, the city had indeed approved Yonder’s plans. It was operating within the bounds of the law.
It didn’t take long for 1,700 people to sign a letter in support of this small business. But, one person complained and according to the rules the city could not ignore that one person. Yonder Bar, the to-go-only retail location for Yonder Cider, is now closed, but hold on.
“We worked with the City Council to get a bill introduced,” said Caitlin Braam. “It will not only allow Yonder Bar to reopen, but allow other start-up businesses like ours.”
First up, don’t feel too bad about the closure. Remember that Yonder Cider has plans, as it did before COVID, to open a location in Seattle. Those plans were put on hold because of the pandemic, which is why they opened Yonder Bar in Caitlin’s garage. (UPDATE: Read about Yonder opening in a new taproom in Seattle.)
Here’s more info about what the City Council is considering. How much influence should one person or one small subset of people have over the operation of a small business like this?
The Seattle City Council is now considering a bill titled “Bringing Business Home” (AKA CB 120001). The announcement about this bill came with an explanation that, under current rules, if somebody files a complaint against a business that’s operating at home, the city doesn’t have the option to not pursue it. That is, one complaint and the city must pursue it. This bill would loosen things up a bit. You can read the text here.
Understand that the city has already allows for home-based businesses, and it has made concessions and adjustments during the COVID crisis, but the requirements are still pretty strict. This would loosen things up, at least for the next year.
But will it prevent people lashing out at a neighborhood-based small business? Given the power of unenlightened narrow self-interests, probably not. But at least the city will have some ability to ignore the nimbies.