Young and Hungry

Starbucks Goes for Bar Bucks by Selling Beer

starbucks-logoAccording to a USA Today story and video, a Starbucks lab store in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood re-opened this Monday after a three-month redesign. In an effort to evolve the 40-year-old brand and boost evening business (since Starbucks does 70% of sales before 2:00pm), the new location is serving booze. That's right. You could soon be ordering Ventis of local wine and craft beer.

Each new store will be LEED certified, meaning the building meets standards by the U.S. Green Building Council. But the locavore-friendly theme doesn't stop with energy-efficient lighting. According to a corporate rep in the video, Starbucks will work with communities to find recycled materials and partner with local artists. The new Seattle store is furnished with chairs salvaged from the University of Washington campus and a table made from flooring from a local high school. Burlap sacks once used for Starbucks coffee decorate the walls.

Along with alcohol as a new menu item, Starbucks will add savory dishes like local cheese plates and cured meats served on china instead of plastic. They also have plans to host performances by local performers. If the lab store does well, Starbucks could be turning more of their locations nationwide into similarly redesigned neighborhood coffee-house/bars.

What do you think about Starbucks carrying regional craft beer as well as lattes and pastries? Can you see yourself winding down in one of their renovated locations?

UPDATE: What's on the new Starbucks store's beer list after the jump.

The pilot store currently has three bottled beers: Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Pyramid Hefeweizen, and Peroni. Peroni is an Italian beer owned by South Africa-based beer giant SABMiller and imported by MillerCoors. Pyramid is a Seattle brand but was recently purchased by Rochester-based North American Brewers, owners of Labatt. Deschutes Mirror Pond is an award-winning pale ale from a well-respected independent Oregon brewery. The small and questionable selection is lackluster to hopeful craft beer fans for sure, but many are likely to think it is better than Starbuck's last attempt at selling beer. What do you think?

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  • Rob

    I feel like this concept already exists. Tim wrote about Northside Social in his column a few weeks ago. That place, to me, is the epitome of the coffee shops / cafe / upscale drinking establishment.

    The problem, as I see it, is that so few of Starbucks' stores are in retail space zoned to serve alcohol. Couple that with the fact that different jurisdictions have different beer license requirements, and I just don't see very many of these types of new stores popping up anytime soon.

  • CoCo

    Well, thank God they are doing something new, because I've had my doubts about Starbucks being able to sustain themselves with just coffee and pastries! I think it's a great idea. Cheese and cold cuts? Yes, even their food line needs to expand. I've noticed lately they've been adding all kinds of good-for-you snacks. Plus, now they've come out with their pastry "minis" which I think will be a hit. Good for them! I love Starbucks' atmosphere, but don't drink the coffee because after 5 years of buying it I finally had to admit to myself that it was bitter and too strong and I didn't really like it! So I stick with tea when I go there.

  • angel

    I love this idea. I'm in the burbs and it would be so nice to have a place where I could just walk in and grab a drink every so often. Most of the places within driving distance are either expensive restaurant bars with pretentious $13 drinks-or at the end of the other spectrum-dive bars that I'm afraid to go into. Hope these aren't just a city thing if they do bring them to the dc area.

  • tomaj

    i think it's a strong indication of the culture of the U.S. that people would be commenting, much less debating, the idea of a coffee cafe selling a beer. in most of the world, selling a beer, glass of wine, would not be a big deal, especially in a cafe, but here in the U.S., selling beer is...what? crossing some line? changing the nature of a cafe? inviting trouble? and of course there's lots of licenses and laws and zoning issues involving with this brash act of selling a beer. i was in prague last week at a chocolate/pastry shop, and i asked them if they had any wine there. "of course," was the answer. in the U.S., they might give me an "are you kidding?" look.

    so what do i think of this starbucks beer thing? i think it's quite normal for a cafe to serve a beer.

  • Spicoli

    Sounds like Starbucks is continuing to do what made it famous - offer a sanitized version of the real thing, right down to the pseudo-microbrews. Enjoy your "craft" brews, Dancing With the Stars fans!

  • Barbara Coggins

    Starbucks is one of my favorite places to drink coffee-please remain the coffee hub of the universe!

  • Kali

    Really? Adding beer to a Starbucks? I agree with Spicoli, if I am going to have a glass of wine or a beer I will go to a pub, if I want to get tipsy after a long week I will go to a bar, and if I want overpriced average coffee I will go to Starbucks. Personally I would never go "relax" at a Starbucks to have a beer or order food, I go to an establishment that actually knows what they are doing. No experiments for this lady...