A Starbucks latte with a beer chaser?
It could happen.
Starbucks is applying to add beer and wine to the menu of its Arroyo Grande store on West Branch Street. The Arroyo Grande Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the request Tuesday night.
Our first reaction: Starbucks is for coffee! Bars are for booze!
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Our second reaction: What next? Latte-flavored dog biscuits, tea-scented perfumes and candles, and Starbucks cookbooks autographed by local baristas?
Then we paused for a big gulp of coffee, and it dawned on us: If other restaurants, eateries and coffee shops can sell beer and wine, why not Starbucks? If we can order a beer and a soft taco at Chipotle, why not a glass of wine and a hummus wrap at Starbucks?
Keep in mind, Arroyo Grande wouldn’t be the first Starbucks to serve alcohol; the chain already has beer and wine on the menu at several locations around the country, mostly in urban areas. Customers, according to Starbucks officials, include those who enjoy a drink with friends but don’t want to go to a noisy bar or restaurant.
That makes sense, and if any Starbucks in San Luis Obispo County is suited to beer and wine sales, it’s the Arroyo Grande store on West Branch. It’s located in a large shopping center with a movie theater and big box stores.
Some Starbucks purists may find the idea of alcohol in a coffee shop hard to swallow, or be worried that alcohol will change Starbucks’ atmosphere.
The Arroyo Grande Starbucks also has a decent amount of indoor seating and a large outdoor seating area, which, in accordance with ABC regulations, would be surrounded by a guardrail if beer and wine sales are allowed.
Still, we expect some Starbucks purists may find the idea hard to swallow.
Some may worry that alcohol will change the atmosphere. Will Starbucks still be a place where you can hunker down with a laptop and get an hour or two of work in while sipping a venti half-caff (or whatever your drink of choice may be)?
We understand the concern, but keep in mind that beer and wine will not be on tap at all times. Starbucks proposes to sell alcohol from noon until closing, according to the city staff report.
The staff report also points out that a boost in afternoon and evening business could mean increased sales taxes for the city. Nothing wrong with that.
One cautionary note: There are a lot of young people who hang out at the shopping center, so the store will have to be scrupulous about not serving to underage customers.
Bottom line: We would not want to see the entire Starbucks chain convert to the business model of coffee by day, beer and wine by night. But for locations where it’s appropriate — and we believe Arroyo Grande to be one of those — it’s worth a try.