Starbucks’ plan to sell alcohol grinds to a halt in SF

Note: As a partner in the San Francisco Alcohol Policy Partnership Working Group, UCSF CTSI's Community Engagement & Health Policy program helps provide and apply evidence on neighborhood alcohol environments in the interest of health and safety. That evidence supported community and civic partners working in this case to reduce the density of venues that sell alcohol by requesting that chain stores not be licensed. 

By Emily Green via the San Franscisco Chronicle

Starbucks withdrew its application to sell beer and wine at three of its San Francisco stores this week, yielding to pressure from the police department and Board of Supervisors, which strongly opposed the proposal.

In May, the coffee chain submitted an application to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to sell beer and wine in three of its San Francisco stores: 685 Beach St. at Fisherman’s Wharf, 565 Clay St. in the Financial District, and 280 King St., a block from AT&T Park.

Asked why the company withdrew the applications, a Starbucks spokeswoman alluded to city officials’ opposition. “We will continue to thoughtfully assess the opportunity to expand the menu in the future while working in partnership with the city,” Holly Hart Shafer wrote in an email.

The police department says the city already has enough places that sell alcohol — San Francisco has the highest density of liquor licenses in the state — and allowing companies like Starbucks to sell beer and wine would open the floodgates for other restaurant chains to do the same.

Taco Bell has also applied for a license to sell alcohol at its restaurant at 710 Third St., a block from the Giants’ ballpark. The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has final say over whether to approve those applications and it has indicated support for that application, said Lt. Dave Falzon, the police department’s liaison with ABC.

Starbucks decision to withdraw its applications was a relief, Falzon said.

“The department hopes this sends a loud message to state regulators who supported these licenses that they need to recognize the concerns of our community and our local government,” he said.

Registering its opposition, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday urging ABC to deny licenses to businesses that have not historically sold alcohol as part of their business model.

“It’s unclear if Starbucks’ withdrawal has anything to do with our policy, but I like to think that it does,” said Supervisor Eric Mar, who authored the resolution. “Alcohol has a similar health harm as tobacco sales.”

In other parts of the country, Starbucks is already selling alcohol. There are more than 300 Starbucks locations across the United States — including Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, Santa Rosa and San Mateo — that offer “Starbucks Evenings,” selling small plates, beer and wine after 4 p.m., according to the company spokeswoman.

Original Story

Related Story:  Starbucks Pulls Out of Plan to Serve Booze In FiDi, SOMA, Wharf