Ryan Chartrand

The troops are under siege, huddled together for strength and drawn together by their similarities. Though each is very unique, they’re all connected by one commonality: they’re all from San Luis Obispo.

These troops belong to the 900 block of Higuera Street downtown – the block that contains Louisa’s Place, Mr. Absolute and H&G Clothing. It also contains Mo’s Smokehouse BBQ, which is adjacent to McCarthy’s Irish Pub. Both businesses will soon close their doors because of rising rent prices downtown.

Who can afford to rent space downtown if these two locals can’t?

Well, let’s look at who’s moved into town recently: Pottery Barn, California Pizza Kitchen, Urban Outfitters and other chain stores.

And let’s look at who’s been renting downtown for a while: Ross, Barnes & Noble, Gap, Starbucks and other corporate chains.

Granted, there are the few locally-owned businesses that thrive like Bali’s and Linnaea’s; but when space goes up for rent, chains have a huge advantage over the little guys. They have deep pockets to afford overhead costs, advertising, salaries, and any other start-up expenses.

So when Mo’s and McCarthy’s go up for sale soon, the Downtown Association will be faced with a decision: to accept small businesses or toss in more chains. Their general trend has been the latter, but the Mustang Daily strongly encourages them to go the other way.

When the Dalidio and Madonna shopping projects were proposed, opponents said they would detract from San Luis Obispo’s downtown core, pulling consumers away and into big chain stores. So far, this has not collapsed the downtown economy and the area remains as vibrant as ever. But as more chain stores creep downtown, it’ll be just like the shopping centers on the city’s outskirts, just with more trees and a small-town feel.

San Luis Obispo has prided itself on the downtown blocks since its early days, so the city should do its part to keep the area as local as possible. If that means rent caps, helping out with the costs of earthquake retrofitting (which is partly to blame for the rent spike), or offering incentives to small business owners, they should do it. Otherwise, downtown San Luis Obispo will look like any other suburban shopping area. The city should stop the chain takeover and support its local businesses.

Editorials reflect the opinion of the Mustang Daily editorial staff.

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