Starbucks and Alcohol

Starbucks announced recently that they will be begin selling beer and wine in select stores in Southern California by the end of this year. Is this a little surprising? Yes. A little strange? Not really. But this move does have a lot of people turning their heads.

The decision to start selling wine and beer makes perfect sense: once the afternoon starts, people aren’t going to coffee shops looking for a boost anymore. They’re looking to relax, and really, there’s nothing more relaxing than a nice pint or glass of wine. A stout pairs with a good book just as well as an Arabica, after all.

The addition of wine and beer in the afternoons and evenings just adds another dimension to the ’Bucks, keeping everything we kind of like about the coffee market monster while adding just a little bit more.

Though some may be worried that the wine and beer will draw a more annoying crowd — one that could be loud and disruptive — that’s no reason to be concerned.

There’s no cheap swill to be sold. Thus far, pints have started at $5 and glasses of wine at $7 in the test stores up in Seattle. These prices will keep people interested in binge drinking in their seedy watering holes, not in the local coffee shop. The beer is meant more to be sipped and savored than swallowed quickly. Rather than attracting a different crowd, the craft brews will more likely be a nice gift to the already regular patrons.

Introducing a new place to imbibe on campus (if this makes it pass test markets and, amazingly, gets rolled out on campus) would also be helpful. As much as I love the Anthill (I love the Anthill a lot), it gets crowded really quickly, especially at nights. It’s also pretty loud and tends to be dark — not the most ideal place to get some reading or work done. A quiet place to drink and relax is exactly what this campus needs. As strange as it sounds, Starbucks serving alcohol would be ideal. It’d take some pressure off of the Anthill and keep more people on campus later into the day. Being able to order a pinot grigio with one of Starbucks’ cheese plates would just be a plus.

In addition, exposing more people to the beauty of quality American craft brew can only bring good things. I’m sick of Bud, Coors and MGD being American beers. I’d much rather Rogue Brewery, brewers of Dead Guy, one of the beers on the Seattle Starbucks menu, get some recognition. Though craft beer has started to see a surge in popularity, any exposure is helpful — and what’s more exposing than being featured in the largest chain coffee shop in existence? When was more variety ever a bad thing, anyways?

The only thing I can see being worrisome is that, despite how awesome it would be, the Starbucks on campus most likely will never serve alcohol since it’s contracted out. Though Starbucks serving alcohol might seem a little strange at first, it really isn’t all that weird. The addition of beer and wine does nothing to change the culture of the coffee shop. If anything, it’s a little gift for the people who already spend their evenings there.

Could it ever work on campus? Yes, it would work wonderfully. Will it ever happen? Probably not. It’s hard to imagine our Aramark-operated Starbucks actually serving alcohol, and that makes me sad, because we could always use another place to drink.

 

Charles Lam is a fifth-year French major. He can be reached at cnlam@uci.edu.