Monday, September 25, 2006

Starbucks Accused of Abusing Monopoly Power in Violation of Sherman Act

Seattle Coffee-House Files Suit Which Could Have Impact Nationally

An independent specialty coffeehouse owner filed a proposed class action lawsuit today against Starbucks Corporation, claiming the company, from its monopoly position in the specialty coffee market, engages in a range of anti-competitive activities aimed at eliminating competition.

Filed in U.S. District Court, the suit alleges that Starbucks has exploited its monopoly power in the specialty coffee retail market to stifle competition through a series of predatory practices including exclusive lease agreements, "cluster bombing" of stores and competitor buy-outs.

Among the allegations leveled in the complaint, Penny Stafford -- an independent coffee-shop operator -- claims that Starbucks locks out competition through a series of exclusive lease agreements with property managers of Class A high-rises, preventing other specialty coffee shops from operating in the same building.

In this practice, Starbucks frequently offers to make lease payments higher than fair market value in exchange for a property owner's agreement to prevent competitors from leasing space in the same building, the complaint says.

In the Seattle and Bellevue markets, the majority of Class A space is controlled by a handful of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), making such agreements with Starbucks possible, the suit claims.

"We believe Starbucks has become such a dominating force in the coffee- house segment, it has become a monopolist," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and attorney for Stafford. "We intend to show that as a monopolist, Starbucks is abusing their market power to the detriment of its competitors, and to consumers."

"We contend that Starbucks' market practices are more about destroying competition than pouring a good cup of coffee," Berman added.

According to published reports, Starbucks controls 73 percent of the specialty coffeehouse market.

"Fair, even bare-knuckle competition is one thing, but we believe Starbucks has repeatedly crossed the line in denying competition the chance to go toe-to-toe with them," said Berman.

Stafford, owner of Belvi Coffee and Tea Exchange Inc., tried to enter the specialty coffeehouse business by seeking retail spaces located in Seattle and Bellevue's Class A high-rise office buildings, but her entry was repeatedly blocked despite consumer demand in these locations, the suit claims.

Berman says the lease agreement tactic is just one of a myriad of anti- competitive steps Starbucks uses to avoid fair competition.

According to the complaint, Starbucks also participated in predatory actions when Stafford was finally able to obtain Class A retail space in May 2005.

"Once I found a way into a Class A building, it was obvious to me that Starbucks decided I had to go," said Stafford. "The nearest Starbucks was around the corner, but they continually sent employees loaded with free drink samples to stand in front of my shop, drawing away customers."

Starbucks' campaign lasted for months, and eventually led to the store's closing, according to Stafford.

The complaint cites a number of other predatory tactics used by Starbucks, including reports in which Starbucks offers to buy out competitors at below- market prices, and threatens to open stores nearby if the offer is rejected.

The complaint also cites instances in which Starbucks uses its huge financial power to purchase other independent providers in an effort to squash any presence of independent coffee purveyors.

For example in 2003 Starbucks purchased Seattle Coffee Company acquiring Seattle's Best Coffee and Torrefazione Italia for $72 million, which boasted 22 Seattle's Best Coffee and five Torrefazione Italia stores in the greater Seattle area.

Starbucks then closed all the Torrefazione stores, and more than half of the SBC stores.

"It is clear to us that Starbucks' game plan is to completely dominate a market by forcing out competition, something they've done quite well in the Seattle area," Berman added. "We also believe that this scorched-earth approach is happening in many other major markets across the U.S."

The suit is asking the court to end what it claims are anti-competitive activities and seeks to represent coffee shop owners who seek to occupy retail space in commercial office buildings in Seattle or Bellevue.

According to Berman, he has heard from other coffeehouse owners across the country who are experiencing the same treatment, and could expand the suit to include them sometime in the near future.

Starbucks currently sells approximately four million coffee drinks daily in the U.S. alone. With more than 1,200 stores expected to open this year, the company continues to grow into a global empire. Its long-term goal is to have over 15,000 U.S. stores and 30,000 stores worldwide.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

MulvannyG2 Architecture Wins Award for Influential Design in China

Ming Zhang Recognized Among Top 20 Most Influential Designers
MulvannyG2 Architecture, based in Bellevue, was selected as one of the top 20 most influential architectural firms in China at the 2006 China Landmark Summit held at the China National Guest House Hotel in Beijing. Ming Zhang, Senior Partner, MulvannyG2, was also recognized among the top 20 most influential designers involved in projects in China.

Source: MulvannyG2 Architecture

· View Multimedia Gallery

The Chinese Research Center for Urban Development and Environment under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences sponsored the event, in cooperation with the World Landmark Association and the International Urban Cultural Association. Eleven Chinese firms and nine international firms were recognized for contributing to the development of landmark buildings in China in the past three decades.

In addition to MulvannyG2, SOM and KPF architectural firms were recognized from the U.S. Chinese firms selected include ECADI in Shanghai, China Architectural Design Institute and Co. in Beijing, and Beijing Architectural Design Institute and Co. Designers recognized were overseas and local Chinese including Cui Kai, Chin Taining, and Zhu Xiaodi, in addition to Ming Zhang.

"To participate in China's incredible growth and modernization is a privilege and especially meaningful to me. As a youth growing up in Nanjing, I never imagined that I would be recognized for designing landmark buildings in China today," said Ming Zhang. "Designing buildings in China is an architect's dream, as developers seek high-imagery projects to fill skylines and make bold statements."

Ming Zhang is Design Director at MulvannyG2, responsible for projects in the U.S. and international markets such as China, Japan, Korea, India, and the United Arab Emirates. Some of his notable projects include: China Construction Bank, Xiamen; Shanghai Fudan University Crowne Plaza Hotel, Shanghai; Zhangjiang Semiconductor Research Park, Shanghai; Fujian Provincial Electric and Power Company, Fuzhou; Redmond City Hall, Washington; Towers on Capitol Mall, California.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Blog Business Summit in Seattle October 25-27

The next Blog Business Summit will be held at the beautiful Bell Harbor Conference Center in Seattle, WA and will be three days of business blogging mania. It's going to be a great one, and there are lots of new speakers and sessions lined up. Besides the "usual suspects" such as Robert Scoble, Buzz Bruggeman, Dave Taylor, Mary Hodder, and Halley Suitt, etc. there are several new presenters including: Jason Calacanis: CEO of Weblogs Inc. an AOL company Jory Des Jardins: Co-founder, BlogHer Ben Edwards: Manager of New Media Communications, IBM Andru Edwards: Entrepreneurial Blogger Maryam Scoble has been named conference co-chair. New sessions on Podcasting and video blogginghave been added. Special discounts to the event: Early bird pricing is available until September 22. Use the discount code "loyal" (lowercase) to save an additional $50 off any package. SPECIAL BLOGGER DISCOUNT: Bloggers who post about the event (and link back) prior to registering can save $100 off the current pricing by emailing us with a link to the post. We will respond by sending a discount code worth $100 off any package. Just email:

International Ballet Theatre Brings Dracula to Meydenbauer Center for Halloween

Giant Gargoyle heralds International Ballet Theatre’s

Halloween classic, Dracula!

Only West Coast production

October 27-31, 2006

The International Ballet Theatre (IBT), under the direction of Kirov Ballet dancer, master teacher, and world-renowned choreographer, Vera Altunina, will present the electrifying and passionate performance of Dracula, at Meydenbauer Theater October 27-31, 2006. Few dance companies in the world attempt to perform this macabre romantic thriller – IBT presents the only West Coast production of this classic love story.

A humongous, growling gargoyle (8’ tall, 12’ wingspan), with moving wings and a shroud of fog, will guard the entrance to Meydenbauer Theatre during the month of October, welcoming all arts patrons who dare to enter! The Gargoyle was built by Distortions Unlimited, and donated to IBT by Display and Costume (Seattle) to promote IBT’s annual cult classic, now in its third consecutive year.

Bram Stoker’s, gothic masterpiece, Dracula (1896) became a cultural phenomenon of the 20th Century, canvassing film, music, dance and virtually all mediums of pop culture. IBT’s dance extravaganza of this classic tale seduces the audience with a range of emotion, exploring the depths of good and evil through elegance, beauty, and heart-pounding energy.

IBT’s production of Dracula is filled with diverse artistic offerings from classical ballet to theater jazz and modern dance choreographed by master teachers Jerry Tassin and Eva Stone. Eastern European folk rhythms, magicians, acrobats, warlocks doing an Irish jig, and witches tap-dancing on coffins create an energetic production not performed anywhere else on the West Coast.

Guest Artist

Anton Pankevitch, IBT guest artist and dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), will perform the leading role of Jonathan. Mr. Pankevitch was last seen in PNB’s production of Jewels, May 2006.


IBT transforms Meydenbauer Center into Castle Dracula for Dractacular! – an electrifying masquerade party, dinner and auction, prior to the Sunday, October 29th performance. Tickets to the performance are included in the Dractacular! ticket price of $100 per person, $1000 per corporate table (10). Call 425.284.0444 for tickets.

Halloween Party

Dracula is entertaining for audiences of all ages, including children. Families are invited to bring children to the costume contest during the Saturday or Sunday matinee performances. All brave souls are encouraged dress up and join IBT for a very special performance on Halloween night where Dracula’s presence is sure to “touch” everyone in the theatre…

Tickets for Dracula are on sale beginning September 5th by calling 206.325.6500 or Tickets are: $35 – Adult, $25 for Senior/Student, and $15 – child (12 & under). Performances open at Meydenbauer Theater in Bellevue, Washington (11100 NE 6th Street, Bellevue, WA):

Friday, October 27 - 7:30pm

Saturday, October 28 – 2:00pm and 7:30pm

Sunday, October 29 – 2:00pm and 7:30pm

Tuesday, October 31 – 7:30pm

Sink your teeth into this intriguing drama of love, bloodlust, loss and redemption…of power and passion…of good and evil…and the search for immortality. “Long live Dracula. May he never rest in peace.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Great Newsletter for Investing Your Retirement Plan

Guidant Financial in Bellevue puts out a monthly newsletter called Savvy Investor Newsletter that is full of information about putting your retirement plan to work for you. Check it out!

New Kiwanis Club in Redmond Seeks More Members

I recently received an email from Eastside Business reader Jen Heuer, who is involved in a Kiwanis Club that was started in Redmond about two months ago. She would like everyone to know that they have 25 members already and are looking to grow. The Redmond Kiwanis Club meets every Tuesday from noon to 1p.m. at the Marriott Redmond Town Center – Meritage Restaurant. All guests are welcome. Information: Jen Heuer 417-1686. Go check 'em out and lend a hand where you can. Kiwanis is a great service organization dedicated to helping children and young adults and can use your help.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Celebrity Chef For New Bellevue Japanese Fusion Restaurant Performs Galleria Summer Concert Series Cooking Demonstration

National award-winning Chef Warren Seta, assisted by Sushi Chef Sim Sung Honda will be performing a contemporary Japanese fusion cooking demonstration Thursday, September 14, from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. as a highlight of the Bellevue Downtown Association’s Galleria summer concert series.

Seta will be chef at the new Yama Japanese fusion cuisine restaurant slated to open in late October on the third floor of the Galleria, 550 106th Ave. N.E..

The cooking demonstration will be interactive between the two nationally recognized chefs. Chef Seta will be preparing a dish that won several national accolades at his former restaurant.

Originally from Hawaii, Seta has over 25 years experience in the restaurant business. In 1981 he left Hawaii, and in 1996 acquired the well-known Las Vegas Japanese restaurant, Mizuno's Japanese Steak House, located at the Tropicana Resort & Casino. Under his direction Mizunos was voted “Best Restaurant in Las Vegas,” as well as one of the top ten in the U.S. by the National Restaurant and Hospitality Group.

Seta opened Malibu Chan's in November 1999. It soon became recognized as the hip restaurant in Las Vegas, with its signature menu focusing on comfort foods infused with the flavors of Asia and the Southwest. Since then Seta and the restaurant have received numerous awards and accolades, including the Millennium International Award of Excellence as one of America's great chefs.

Executive chef Warren Seta, former chef/owner of Mizuno’s and Malibu Chan's in Las Vegas was sought out by Yama Restaurant owner Alex Han. He wanted to ensure his restaurant would quickly gain regional and national attention as the “best of the best” in sushi and grilled fish infused with creative compliments, i.e. rock shrimp tempura fondue. The concept created by Han immediately captured the attention of the nationally recognized restaurant developer / renowned chef.

Yama Restaurant is slated to open in late October in Bellevue’s Galleria, 550-106th Avenue N.E., third floor. The Japanese restaurant, the Pearl of the Eastside will feature sushi and grilled seafood on the lunch and dinner menus. For or more information, contact (425) 453-4007 or