McDonald’s confident of winning lawsuit
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
“We will win the lawsuit and will open McDonald’s. It is just a matter of time,” said the legal representative of McDonald’s. “We are not against the opening of the franchise, but we do not want it in the historic center,” said the representatives of the group Saving San Miguel during a meeting held with executives from McDonald’s.
The two sides meet
On January 9, representatives of McDonald’s and Salvando San Miguel attended a meeting where both parties expressed their opinions about the opening of the restaurant at Canal 16. Napoleón Negrete, on the part of Salvemos San Miguel, started the meeting and commented that in 1937 a law was published by the local congress for the protection and preservation of San Miguel. That law, according to Negrete, was also aimed at controlling the placement of advertisements in languages other than Spanish, but later it was repealed by Congress. Finally, the local government made a summary of all the laws and cited the Reglamento de Zonificación y Usos de Suelo (Regulations of Zoning and Permit for Businesses), which forbids the authorization of franchises in its Article 2, part 33.
Patricia Pimentel, on behalf of Salvando San Miguel, said that the group is not against the opening of McDonald’s but that they do not want it in the historic center. “We already have one in Plaza la Luciérnaga, and we have not protested. We want to protect the architecture of the historic center, the environment and the tangible and intangible heritage. We urge you to respect the regulations of San Miguel de Allende,” she said. In her speech, Pimentel proposed an alternate location for the new franchise at the new plaza in front of Mega Comercial and said, “We will not protest the opening of McDonald’s in supermarkets or malls because the franchise more closely matches that kind of setting.”
Ricardo Carvajal, legal representative of McDonald’s, commented that he was expecting to talk about other topics related to McDonald’s, such as nutrition or concerns about the closing of other restaurants or hamburger stands in the Jardín. “But we are here to listen and all that you said will be considered,” he said. Carvajal commented also that if the restaurant opens on calle Canal, the corporation will respect the architecture of the building, the façade and interiors. Marcos García, who is responsible for projects, commented that “the building was a bar and was heavily damaged because it did not receive maintenance. McDonald’s always tries to restore these kinds of buildings and open them to the general public. We understand your concerns, but we would preserve the urban image of the building and its context.”
Paola Castro, coordinator of Public Relations for McDonald’s Mexico, said that the chain of restaurants arrived in Mexico in 1985 and currently has 400 stores. “Our intention is not to destroy the beauty of San Miguel. The space will be remodeled but will preserve its beauty. Besides, we want to bring employment for young locals and we will have a good relationship with San Miguel,” she said. She also commented that the Ronald McDonald Foundation helps many Guanajuato children who need medical attention in Mexico City by providing them with housing, food and transportation and that would not change if McDonald’s does not open on calle Canal in San Miguel.
Questions and answers
Members of Salvando San Miguel asked the reason why they requested the permits from the local government under the name of Arcos Sercal Inmobiliaria, and not McDonald’s. Castro said that it is the fiscal name of the company in Mexico and the commercial name is McDonald’s. Activist David Bossman raised several questions: “Were you aware of all these regulations that have existed for the last 75 years? Were you aware that the sidewalk in front of McDonald’s is no wider than one meter? Did you know that this is a major traffic area where people have to walk single-file on the sidewalk, and if people congregate, especially young people, it becomes a dangerous intersection? Were you aware that Starbucks is not a franchise, but a corporation, and has a security guard in front of their property? Did you know that San Miguel is not only a World Heritage site but has been voted by numerous magazines as Mexico’s number-one tourist attraction, and has been voted by other magazines recently as the most desirable site in Mexico for tourism? San Miguel is the number-eight tourist destination in the world, and all of this without a McDonald’s.”
Castro replied, “We are aware that San Miguel does not need a McDonald’s to be a magical city. But we just want to offer a new option for tourists. McDonald’s has been in the world for 57 years and many cities have been developed without a McDonald’s, but it will be an option for those who want to take it.”
Carvajal answered, “We were aware of the regulations but they are secondary and the law is dictated by a judge.” He also said that the legal case is in progress and it will end in less than two months. “It seems like the judge will grant us the opportunity to open; we will win the lawsuit and we will open, but that will be decided in the courts.”