Blythewood TC/PC meeting begins with dinner, ends with coffee confrontation

BLYTHEWOOD – What promised to be an informative though less than riveting review Monday evening of the purposes, responsibilities and processes of the town’s boards and commissions by Town Administrator Brian Cook, ended with a disgruntled former coffee vendor verbally holding the council and planning commission hostage for close to half an hour.

The evening began with boxed meals brought in for councilmen, commissioners and town hall staff prior to a 6 p.m. joint meeting of council members and planning commissioners.

Beyer

It was not until the public comment segment at the end of the public meeting that the fireworks began. That’s when Matt Beyer, owner of Grace Coffee, a former coffee vendor in the town, stepped up to the podium.

While assuring the panel right off that what he was about to say was not a threat, some at the dias and in the audience, said afterward it appeared to be so.

“As my dad often said, we can do this the easy way or the hard way – and this is not a threat – but there’s a short version and a long version. I’m prepared to do both,” Beyer told council firmly.

In an almost 25-minute soliloquy, Beyer tried to convince the panel to reinstate his coffee trailer’s previous grandfathered status in the town. He explained that he is leaving his Lexington location, and the new owners of the former Bits and Pieces business at 208 Main Street would like to have Grace Coffee come back to that location. The owners, according to Town Hall, are Theresa McKenrick and her husband Rich McKenrick who is also a member of the town’s planning commission.

Beyer initially launched into what he described as the short version of his request, detailing his side of a complex story that was reported in The Voice off and on over two and a half years. The last story printed in February, 2019 after Beyer moved from the grandfathered location in the parking lot of Bits and Pieces at 208 Main Street to a new location on Wilson Blvd. (See Grace Coffee FB post stirs up community and Grace Coffee opens outside town from Nov. 2018. )

In telling his version of the story, Beyer quoted the town administrator, the Voice, the former and current mayors, planning commissioners, town council members and others to make his case that while he left his grandfathered location, he should be allowed by the town to return to it and continue doing business there.

But, according to Town Hall, Beyer’s move from the location nullified the grandfather clause. Beyer, however, said his status still stands and he only needs confirmation of that from council.

“I’m not here today to debate what has already been debated for two years. I’m here seeking affirmation of what has already been determined by the planning commission, the board of architectural review and the former mayor himself,” Beyer said. “I’ve got written documentation of this that I am willing to share if we need to, but for the sake of time – again, easy way, hard way – if council would like to make a motion, a simple memo or a motion to affirm the decision already made to allow us to operate as we once did for two years, we can move on, get home much earlier tonight.”

Jumping in at one point as Beyer caught his breath, Mayor Brian Franklin tried unsuccessfully to end Beyer’s presentation.

“You make a good point, but we cannot take action tonight. It’s not on the agenda,” Franklin said. “But we heard what you said.”

Beyer was undaunted in his quest and continued.

“Okay, well if there’s no action, then I’m just going to continue,” Beyer said as he proceeded.

“Uh, you’re pretty much…” Franklin broke in. “We get the point. Is there anything…” Beyer interrupted and forged on.

“Yes, yes, absolutely, absolutely, and I’ll be brief,” Beyer said as he continued for another 15 minutes to recount events from two years ago as well as his multiple unsuccessful attempts to convince town hall to confirm his side of the issue.

Eighteen minutes into his speech, Beyer insisted that he was not trying to be difficult.

“I’ve chosen to keep this issue private for a week, ‘cause I don’t want to do this.” He added after he got no response, “If you want to go to town council we can do this and then all of a sudden, the whole community will know. So I’m here tonight to try to resolve this one last time before it goes public. And I’m just saying there’s a lot of people around here that love our coffee.”

Asked by The Voice if he is considering a lawsuit against the town on the issue, Beyer said, “no comment.”

After more than 24 minutes, Beyers ended his plea with, “I’m asking one time that you just affirm. I just need a memo.”