Friday, March 23 , 2018, 12:23 pm | Fair 59º




Happy Hour at Starbucks? Montecito Location Wants To Sell Beer, Wine

Coast Village Road location would be first Starbucks in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to obtain alcohol license

The Starbucks on Coast Village Road has applied for a license to sell beer and wine for the new “Starbucks Evenings.” It would become the first location in Santa Barbara county to do so, and one of about 40 locations in the country.
The Starbucks on Coast Village Road has applied for a license to sell beer and wine for the new “Starbucks Evenings.” It would become the first location in Santa Barbara county to do so, and one of about 40 locations in the country.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo )

Sure, the Starbucks on Coast Village Road near Montecito is a traditional corporate coffee shop. There's the $5 gooey caramel Frappuccinos, $4 white chocolate mochas and $2 cups of light roast coffee.

But it is also where the parking lot is full of Beamers and Benzes, where men in suits and women in stretch pants and sunglasses sashay through the doors toward a long line that extends to the bathroom. It's where people frequently peek above their Apple laptops and devices to occasionally set eyes on a Baldwin brother or other Montecito celebrity or look to exchange a smile with a stranger. 

And while it doesn't have the overt pick-up vibe of a place like Lucky's down the road, with its robust supply of cozy leather chairs and sofas, it's where people gather for conversation and community, friendship and fun, and perhaps a glimpse of an old friend or fling. 

So why not dim the lights and throw a little alcohol into the mix, right? It's time for happy hour at Starbucks.

The busiest and most popular coffee shop on the South Coast wants to start serving beer and wine to patrons after 4 p.m., in an elaborate expansion billed as "Starbucks Evenings," geared toward a more mature crowd.

It would be the first Starbucks in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to offer beer and wine, and one of only about 40 throughout the nation.

"Say hello to a new way to enjoy Starbucks," says the corporate-speak on the Starbucks website. "Drop in after work, with friends, after yoga, by yourself, after a long day or after a great day."

The store at 1046 Coast Village Rd. applied for the beer and wine license in May. The 30-day protest period ends on June 8. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has already received one objection to the proposed license.

Once the comment period is completed, ABC will launch a 45- to 90-day investigation into the application and decide whether to grant the license, said Leslie Pond, ABC's supervising agent in the Ventura office.

Pond said there are already 20 existing similar licenses in the vicinity, a concentration that ABC will consider. In addition, there are residences within 100 feet of Starbucks, which typically raises red flags among ABC investigators, Pond said. 

"That's a big deal," Pond said. "We look at proximity of the premise to residential neighborhoods, schools, parks, churches. If we grant the license we will make sure that it doesn't have an impact on these people."

On-site Starbucks employees are not allowed to speak to the media. Starbucks' corporate office in Seattle declined to return Noozhawk calls, but it did issue a statement in response to questions. 

"Just as each customer is unique, so are our stores and we consider a broad range of products and experiences for each neighborhood," the statement said. "We are currently evaluating the right coffee and food experience for this neighborhood, including our Starbucks Evenings menu. While we don’t have additional details to share at this time, we will be sure to keep you up to date going forward."

The company has launched its "Starbucks Evenings" theme in Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Portland, Washington D.C., Orlando and now Santa Barbara.

If successful, Starbucks will expand to thousands of stores around the country over the next few years and offer dainty appetizers such as cheese plates, balsamic-wrapped dates, truffle macaroni and cheese, and truffle popcorn. 

Customers interviewed by Noozhawk had mixed feelings on the idea.

Kate Jay said she doesn't mind if the coffee shop sells alcohol, but she heard that off-site Alcoholic Anonymous meetings are sometimes held at Starbucks, which could make the atmosphere awkward. 

Jay said she might one day try a glass of wine there.

"It wouldn't be a destination, but if I were getting together with friends," she said.

Dan Sperling said he visits Starbucks every day.

"I think it's a fine idea," he said. "I come here every day. A lot of independent coffee shops already do it."

He doubts it will take on a bar-like atmosphere.

"For the people who live around here, it's something quick," Sperling said. 

Customer Andrea Read said she supports Starbucks' right to sell alcohol, but that it could change the feel of the coffee shop because a lot of people under 21 frequent the establishment.

"If they want to change their atmosphere, that's up to them," Read said. "But I am probably not going to want to come here if people are noticeably drunk."

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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