Why there won't be beer, wine at Starbucks in Naperville

  • Naperville liquor commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to reject a request from Starbucks to sell alcohol at up to six of its 15 Naperville locations.

    Naperville liquor commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to reject a request from Starbucks to sell alcohol at up to six of its 15 Naperville locations. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer, July 2015

 
 
Posted6/10/2016 5:30 AM

Concerns about the proliferation of alcohol at coffee shops caused Naperville liquor commissioners Thursday to deny a request from Starbucks to sell beer and wine.

The coffee giant wanted to start its Starbucks Evenings food and beverage program at up to six of its 15 Naperville locations during the next two years.

 

But liquor commissioners unanimously voted not to create a new type of liquor license that could have allowed coffee shops without full kitchen equipment to enter the bar business.

"There's plenty of other venues in town to go to get beer or wine and I don't think a coffeehouse needs to be one of them," Commissioner Diana Williams said. "I worry about what message we as the community of Naperville send to (teens) if we say even in our coffeehouses there needs to be alcohol available."

Commissioners also worried if they allow Starbucks to add alcohol to its menu, many of the city's roughly 30 other coffee shops could want the privilege, too.

"Unless we're holding some sort of discipline, it could become pervasive everywhere," Commissioner Marc Blackman said.

Last July, when Starbucks first approached the city seeking a liquor license, City Prosecutor Kavita Athanikar said two shops that sell coffee -- Le Chocolat du Bouchard and Jo & Doh Donuts -- have sought liquor licenses but were denied.

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There's no telling how many more would apply if there were a license specifically designed for coffee shops.

Some commissioners encouraged Starbucks to add full kitchens to the locations where it wants to sell beer and wine.

But attorney Harlan Powell said that's not in the company's plans. Starbucks has no desire to become a tavern or full-service restaurant, he said -- just to welcome evening customers with an expanded food menu such as flatbreads and truffle mac and cheese and evening-appropriate drinks, including wine or beer.

There are 443 locations nationwide where Starbucks sells alcohol -- 64 of them in Illinois. But with Thursday's vote, there won't be any in Naperville.

"The concept of going to a Starbucks in the evening or late afternoon sounds very appealing," Blackman said. "But when you really think about it, how many different outlets do there need to be where everywhere you turn, there's beer, wine or alcohol in some way, shape or form consumed?"

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