Starbucks rebuffed for stealth tactic in W’burg booze bid

Beer or coffee?: The Union Avenue and Ainslie Street Starbucks. The Seattle chain has applied for a license to sell beer or wine alongside juice and java at another store under construction on N. Seventh Street between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street.
Photo by Jason Speakman

They’re keeping neighbors in the dark roast.

Williamsburg’s community board has rebuffed coffee giant Starbucks’s application to serve beer and wine at its planned N. Seventh Street location because it left the name “Starbucks” off the paperwork. The form, submitted to the board and posted on the building between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street, listed only “Coffee House Holdings LLC,” prompting the board’s liquor committee to table a vote on the bid and demand the java giant rewrite the application and knock on every door on the block to let neighbors know of its plans. One board member said the arrival of a chain vendor serving alcohol is a big deal that should be taken seriously.

“They are a huge company and I want to make sure that the neighbors understand what is happening,” Rob Solano said. “This is definitely different from if it were a mom-and-pop business.”

The committee is set to revisit the application in October, provided Starbucks does that door-knocking.

“If the neighbors get notified and no one has anything to say about it, that is fine,” said Solano. “But we have to make sure they know.”

The community board’s vote is only advisory and the power to approve the liquor license ultimately lies with the state Liquor Authority.

Starbucks sells alcohol in just 30 of its more than 20,000 stores, including in the Seattle, Portland, Southern California, Chicago, and Atlanta locations, as well as in airports in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. The incognito Starbucks inside a Macy’s store in Manhattan, which lacks Starbucks signage, also sells beer and wine.The coffee company opened its first Williamsburg location earlier this summer in the Karl Fischer building at the corner of Union Avenue and Ainslie Street.

Starbucks did not return repeated requests for comment.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurf‌aro@c‌ngloc‌al.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitt‌er.com/‌Danie‌lleFu‌rfaro.

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