You wouldn't think members of Occupy Denver were big customers of The Palm, an upscale steakhouse. But they figured out how to make their voices heard at the Denver location of the chain: They gathered outside the restaurant located just off the Sixteenth Street Mall, at 1672 Lawrence Street, and complained about the restaurant's support of Denver's ban on urban camping. Loudly. And late last week, with an International Boycott the Palm Protest set for Saturday, October 19, the Palm reversed its position.
The Palm had been such a strong proponent of the ban that sales manager Wendy Klein had testified in favor of the proposal before Denver City Council on April 30, 2012. The mall was attracting more than its share of homeless, she told the reps: "They are lining up outside our doors even as we speak this evening placing their property on our property to save their night's real estate so that they will have a safe, warm place to sleep impeding our guests and even those who are walking back and forth from the restaurant..."
But if the homeless were impeding guests before the ban was passed on May 14, 2012, Occupy Denver's Boycott the Palm protesters definitely upped the ante. Here's a video posted by the group:
Finally, the Palm reversed its position, posting this statement on its Facebook page late last week:
Since opening in 1996, The Denver Palm has supported the city's homeless community. Currently, The Denver Palm teams up with WeDon'tWaste.org to distribute nutritious food to vulnerable populations, donating our restaurant grade leftovers every Friday morning. We believe it is important to help lift up our homeless neighbors.
In 2012, when the Urban Camping Ban ("the Ban") proposal was presented, we believed it would provide more support in the form of shelters, mental health services, and general assistance for Denver's growing homeless population. There are far too many homeless people in metro Denver, and many of them have no option but to sleep outside on the streets. Since the Ban became law in May 2012, service providers have failed to meet the overwhelming need for safe places to sleep. The stated goals of the Ban included improving the business climate and appearance of central downtown areas; police being able to offer service alternatives that help connect homeless people to healthy alternatives to the street; and improving the quality of life as they move off the streets, into shelters, and access needed services. However, a recent survey of over 512 homeless individuals reported that the Ban, while achieving an improved appearance of central downtown, has done so at the expense of the well-being of Denver's homeless population. It says that rather than accessing more services, it's been shown they have moved to less safe locations and become harder for those offering services to find. "The inability to wrap oneself in a blanket when exposed to the difficulties of winter seems unjust."
We believe the Ban should be amended or repealed to more effectively meet the needs of our homeless community.
We urge immediate action to help the homeless community of Denver, for example, dialogue between city officials and the homeless commissions, advocacy groups and homeless people themselves.
The Palm isn't the first business to reverse its position on the urban camping ban.
Initially, Occupy Denver had targeted the Snooze on Larimer Street, which initially supported the ban, for a boycott, and started demonstrating outside the restaurant on May 6, 2012.
Almost a year later, Snooze announced that it was no longer supporting the ban, and the boycott efforts moved to the Palm on Friday nights.
On May 3, protesters filmed this action there:
On October 18, the Boycott the Palm group made this announcement:
The Palm Restaurant, who we truly believe cares for the plight of the homeless, announced they no longer support the 'Urban Camping' Ban Ordinance. We thank The Palm Restaurant for standing with the homeless and calling for the repeal of the 'Urban Camping' Ban in Denver.
Once again, we urge all businesses and organizations in Denver to review the Denver Homeless Out Loud Report on the implementation and impacts the Ban has had and call for its repeal.
We have left messages with the The Palm's national office; Mayor Michael Hancock's office has yet to receive a copy of The Palm's statement, which was supposedly being sent there.
More from the Calhoun: Wake Up Call archive: "Snooze no longer supports city's urban camping ban."
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