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Forest Groves new motto: The city that drinks?

When we first moved here seven years ago, a friend told me she could sum up Forest Grove in two words: Norman Rockwell.

She went on to explain that she told out-of-town friends about our Main Street, the small-town friendliness and the breathtaking views of hills and forests.

Back then, I couldn't have agreed more. Of course, in those days, our downtown included a scrapbook store, a quilting shop, a music store, at least three house-ware shops, a kids gym, and a book shop.

Nowadays, I find it much easier to just refer to Forest Grove as the Town of Bars.

Before you get the wrong impression, I should tell you I'm the mother of two teenagers, and my husband and I work, live and own a home in Forest Grove. My husband and I drink alcohol in moderation and have no problem with other people who want to do the same.

However, something is very, very wrong when each of the family oriented stores I just mentioned has gone out of business, saying they were unable to stay afloat in this community. Yet, since just this summer, we have somehow been able to 'welcome' three new bars, two wine shops, and a former family movie theater across the street from a school, proudly blasting on its marquee that it's happy to serve beer and wine during shows.

(In fact, one of the catalysts for this letter was the marquee they had this fall, reading: 'Lust. Beer and Wine served to those over 21.' Is there a parent in town who isn't proud to see those words splashed across Pacific Avenue?)

I'm writing this letter for two reasons:

Number one, I refuse to believe I'm the only person in this town who is bothered by this. I challenge other people who live in Forest Grove to put down this paper, pick up their pen/get to their keyboard, and write a letter to the editor of the News-Times.

Is this a problem for your family? Do you just want to complain to your neighbors or are you willing to raise your voice in a public forum and get someone's attention?

I have heard many explanations about why alcohol-based businesses make it in this town and family oriented small business can't. People say the bottom line is that bars are the only ones that can afford to pay the exorbitant rents charged in Forest Grove.

Which leads me to my second reason for writing: I challenge Jeff King, our city's economic director, to write to the News-Times explaining why he thinks we don't attract family oriented businesses to our town.

I'd like to hear from him about why we have bars and wine shops coming out of our ears, but we can't get something as simple as a second grocery store or a family style restaurant.

I'd like to hear him explain why the city can't take steps to subsidize some rents to get some small downtown businesses started.

(Editor's note: King addressed some of these questions in this week's article about the News-Times survey. That story starts on page 1A.)

I hope to see an intelligent public forum opened up in the News-Times about this. But, you had better hurry. Cafe Maffei downtown has gone out of business and replaced by - that's right, you guessed it - a bar.

Oh good, more bars. I think that is why people want to live here, don't you?

Bonnie Fields lives in Forest Grove.