Starbucks may look to put the ‘bar’ into barista

Starbucks has spiked its cups of joe with an evening wine and beer menu in Seattle, but The City’s tough alcohol permits could keep it strictly drip.

Because the company, with 66 stores in The City, gets most of its business before 2 p.m., Starbucks executives decided to try to attract later customers by serving beer and wine after 4 p.m. at a recently reopened store in Seattle. It’s also staying open until midnight on weekends. Company officials say it is a trial run and will expand throughout the country if it proves successful.

Coffee officials would not reveal where they would head next, but if they are eyeing The City, which already has more than 3,000 venues that sell alcohol, they might be disuaded by tough rules that could be a buzz-kill for the plan.

First, Starbucks would have to convince planning officials that any specific venue applying for the permit would not increase crime rates in a high-crime area, and that it would serve as a benefit to the neighborhood.

“That’s just the first obstacle,” said Police Department Inspector David Falzon, who reviews alcohol license applications and makes recommendations. “If they don’t get past them, we have to turn them away.”

Then, if planning officials agree, the alcohol permit itself would require any one of the 66 Starbucks locations in The City to transform into one of two things, a 21-and-older spot or a full-blown restaurant, Falzon said.

The international company that first opened in Seattle’s Pike Place in 1971 and has expanded to more than 16,700 outlets worldwide and started serving a wider variety of edible options, in some cases threatening local mom-and-pop shops.

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control reported that Starbucks has not applied for any permits in the state.

“But that doesn’t mean they can’t try,” Falzon said.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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