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Editorial: Panera's closing isn't the city's fault

Not long after we posted our story about Panera Bread closing its Hastings location, comments started coming in from upset readers who are sad to hear the restaurant is officially closing.

Many, it seems, want to blame the city council and the city staff.

One person asked: How can the city let CVS come to town, and how can the city let Panera leave?

The answer to that question may disappoint some readers. It’s not the city’s fault.

First, on Panera: Decisions like these are made on a corporate level. Teams of staff members in a big office have formulas in place to determine profitability, and if a store isn’t as profitable as they need it to be, they close it. The right time to do that, obviously, is when your lease is up.

The City of Hastings cannot control how many people go to buy sandwiches at Panera for lunch. That’s up to the marketplace.

Second, on CVS: The city didn’t go after CVS and beg them to build a store here. CVS determined there is a need for a store here. They reached out directly to landowners and business owners to buy their land. They reached private agreements with those landowners and CVS is now bringing its formal plan to the planning commission. If CVS meets all the requirements set forth by the city, they will be granted permission by the city to break ground and open their doors a few months later. This is the exact same process Panera went through when they wanted to build.

Rightly so, the city council in Hastings doesn’t play businessman. They don’t determine the mix of businesses here. They can’t, and they shouldn’t.

Imagine yourself as a small business owner for a minute. Let’s say you ran a sandwich shop and bakery here. How would you feel if the city went out and actively sought a different business to come in and take money off your table? Sticky situations like that are among the reasons why the city doesn’t get in the middle of business negotiations in Hastings.