“How can I keep chains out of my neighborhood?”

It’s a familiar refrain from urban creatives, such as the following one from a progressive developer, “How can you legally do this? Keep out the chains and corporate company’s like Starbucks, the Gap, TGI Friday’s, McDonalds, HARD ROCK CAFE’S! They are all part of the whole “Generica” movement, you could be anywhere in the country and not no where you are based on your surroundings. I want [our neighborhood] to be something you can’t just get anywhere. How did other places keep out the chains?

The answer is Formula Business Restrictions. Usually enforced by a Business Improvement District or Main Street Program, it’s a ban not on chains per se, which to some would be considered a restriction of choice, but a ban on formula businesses, which are a restriction of choice. The formula laws require that incoming chains not look or operate like any other branch in the country.

Cities that restrict formula restaurant and retail businesses: San Francisco (on a neighborhood level); Fairfield, CT; Calistoga, San Juan Bautista, Sausalito and Coronado, CA; Bristol, RI; Port Townsend; Nantucket, MA; Port Townsend, WA; Portland, ME…

Cities that restrict formula restaurants only: Bainbridge Island, WA; Arcata, Carmel, Pacific Grove and Solvang, CA; Ogunquit, ME; Port Jefferson, NY; Sanibel, FL; York, ME…

See the New Rules report for the formula business restriction summaries for each of the aforementioned cities.

Thanks to Stacy Mitchell, author of Big Box Swindle, for the reference.

  • Marty Vetere

    Port Townsend, WA does have formula business restrictions. We also have a McDonalds, Subway, Radio Shack, Dollar Store and Hollywood Video. We have several out of town or National Banks (no one seems to mind them). Since we have limited shopping many residents travel to either Kitsap or Clallam County for big box store shopping. The result of this is a sucking sound of sales tax dollars leaving for these counties. The lack of sales tax income has resulted in shortfalls for the city budget. So the city council has increased the tax on city utilities (H20, sewer, garbage and storm system to 20%. A vote put to the citizenry for a similar increase on non-city utilities failed. So the cost cutting measure proposed is to limit library hours. What we retirees do when we find ourselves in a budget shortfall is we CUT SPENDING. What a concept!! Or we shop out of the area where prices are lower and the product choice is greater. My solution: Prmit big box stores in an industrial area on the fringe of this small town.

  • Mike G.

    Abbott Kinney is a great independent shopping district in Venice, CA and they are working on Formula Business restrictions. I like the use of the term “unchained”. It’s catchy.