Metal security curtains draw ire of City Commission

New specialty alcohol retailer and café to open this week

By: Chris Jackett | Royal Oak Review | Published December 12, 2012

 The metal security shutters at Franklin Fine Wine & Café in Royal Oak have drawn concern from some city officials, but store management said that they will rarely be down following the venue’s Dec. 10 opening.

The metal security shutters at Franklin Fine Wine & Café in Royal Oak have drawn concern from some city officials, but store management said that they will rarely be down following the venue’s Dec. 10 opening.

Photo by Chris Jackett

ROYAL OAK — Franklin Fine Wine & Café wasn’t even open yet when it spurred a brief discussion at the City Commission table last month.

Franklin, 511 S. Main, is a combination wine, craft beer and cigar store that features a café with dining space. Set to open Dec. 10 on the northeast corner of Main and Sixth, next to the train tracks, Franklin’s metal security curtains were visible by day during interior remodeling and caught the eye of several city officials.

“Something needs to be done,” Commissioner David Poulton said during a Nov. 19 meeting. “Right in our downtown, it sends the wrong idea to people who are passing and might not come back.”

Infinity Jewelers, 305 N. Main, also features metal security curtains, but Franklin’s location across from 526 Main and BlackFinn at the entrance to the heart of downtown Royal Oak for travelers northbound on Main Street made it more noticeable.

Commissioner Jim Rasor said it “makes us look like a high-crime district” and was unanimously joined by his fellow commissioners in instructing City Attorney David Gillam to draft an ordinance preventing such non-transparent security curtains. An alternative suggestion was chain-link curtains similar to those seen at major malls.

“I was very unhappy to learn that we actually signed off on that,” Rasor said. “I thought we had an ordinance against that. I remember one time someone tried to do that on Washington and we cited them for it and made them take it down. There’s no way that I think we should have that sort of outdoor security curtain in our downtown. I think it sends the absolute wrong message.”

Mike Larranaga, sommelier/ manager at Franklin Fine Wine & Café, said the new venue has been in the remodeling process for nearly two years.

“We didn’t know anything about it. We walked right into it,” Larranaga said, noting he first heard of the commission’s remarks when a regional television station was waiting outside the store for him the morning after the meeting. “The city liked them. The Police Department liked them. It’s one less problem for them.”

Although the security curtains have been highly visible at Franklin since they were installed for a reported cost of about $25,000, Larranaga said they would not be used for more than a few hours each night once the store is open. Tentative business hours will be 9 a.m.-midnight, but a pastry chef will be on-site at about 5 a.m., so Larranaga estimates the curtains will only be down from about 2-5 a.m., since staff will have to clean and close things down internally after customers leave at midnight.

“The way we look at it is we’ll have $1 million to $1.5 million in wine inventory,” said Larranaga, while noting an “out of sight, out of mind” security mindset. “(We) spent a fortune on the awnings to cover the motors. It doesn’t really affect us one way or the other. I’ve heard things like it affects graffiti, but I don’t think people are going to rush over to paint these.”

A San Diego native, Larranaga is excited about the opening of the new venue. Franklin will feature non-mainstream wines, value-driven eclectic wines, Michigan craft beers, a refrigerated beer room, a high-end temperature-controlled wine cellar, a cigar room with 80,000 cigars and a walk-up coffee window in summer. Larranaga said there will be three sommeliers on the floor and the café will offer eclectic pizza, salad bars, grab-and-go lunches, salmon, petite filets and other take-home family dinner meals.

“It’s just a beautiful, fun building,” Larranaga said. “We try to pull as much from the local companies. You won’t see a lot of mainstream stores with this.”

Wine, craft beer and cheese clubs are also in the store’s future, which is housed in a former auto parts store that was built in the late 1930s.