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Montrose Starbucks won’t sell beer, wine after residents appeal permit

Starbucks operates what’s called the “Starbucks Evenings” program at 52 locations in California and 238 throughout the country, where patrons can buy a glass of beer or wine — not hard alcohol — typically beginning in the late afternoon or evening hours.

Starbucks operates what’s called the “Starbucks Evenings” program at 52 locations in California and 238 throughout the country, where patrons can buy a glass of beer or wine — not hard alcohol — typically beginning in the late afternoon or evening hours.

(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

A permit to allow Starbucks to sell beer and wine at its Montrose location was revoked by the Planning Commission Wednesday with its decision being primarily based on the large number of minors who frequent the coffee shop.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to reverse the approval made by the Planning Hearing Officer in December to let the coffee giant serve alcohol, but only if it satisfied 32 conditions.

Starbucks representatives at the meeting on Wednesday requested dropping some of those conditions, such as requiring customers to first buy food if they want to have a glass of beer or wine.

The coffee chain operates what’s called the “Starbucks Evenings” program at 52 locations in California and 238 throughout the country, where patrons can buy a glass of beer or wine — not hard alcohol — typically beginning in the late afternoon or evening hours.

Despite the approval of a conditional-use permit in December, Starbucks had yet to start serving beer and wine at the Montrose storefront.

Also at the meeting was Kim Mattersteig, who, along with a group of neighbors, filed the appeal, in which they said they felt the Starbucks at Honolulu Avenue and Ocean View Boulevard was a bad fit for serving alcohol.

Starbucks is categorized as a fast-food restaurant, one Mattersteig said is too small compared to a sit-down restaurant that serves alcohol. The Starbucks in question is also a popular spot for children and teens after school, Mattersteig said.

“And for a youth to be able to acquire a little shared drink is quite doable,” she said. “I don’t see how you could keep an eye on somebody 100% of the time.”

However, Keith Glassman, a consultant hired by Starbucks to apply for the conditional permit to sell beer and wine, said the baristas would be trained on how to serve. Beer and wine would be poured into transparent containers and handed directly to customers, unlike a coffee-drink order that would be left atop a counter to be picked up.

Mattersteig also said there’s already an oversaturation of businesses selling alcohol in Montrose and more could be on the way with the recent closings of some restaurants.

What’s happening tonight is a sense of fear ... A year from now, I can guarantee all of your fears are going to be nothing.

Keith Glassman, Starbucks consultant

There are currently 31 establishments that serve alcohol in the Montrose Shopping Park, according to the state’s Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.

Commissioner Greg Astorian agreed that several minors visit the Montrose Starbucks, which was his main issue with adding beer and wine to the menu.

“It’s the nature of the business that, in [the appellant’s] opinion, does not mesh with serving beer and wine because it attracts a lot of younger kids, and I tend to believe that,” he said.

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The lack of parking at the Montrose Starbucks was another issue, said Commissioner Stephanie Landregan.

The coffee shop was given the OK from the city to operate initially without providing additional spots given its intended use.

“The parking needs for a drinking establishment, whether it’s just beer and wine, is vastly different than the parking requirements for a take-away coffee or breakfast place,” Landregan said.

Landregan said the success of the Montrose location would make it difficult to monitor serving beer and wine. Allowing a fast-food restaurant to sell alcohol versus a sit-down restaurant would be pushing the envelope, she added.

Glassman argued that there have been no issues regarding the Starbucks Evenings program at the 52 existing stores where it operates and it’s not the coffee chain’s desire to be a bar.

The point of the program is to have a few added menu items for adults in the evening hours, he said.

“What’s happening tonight is a sense of fear,” Glassman said. “A year from now, I can guarantee all of your fears are going to be nothing.”

A list of findings to revoke the conditional-use permit based on what commissioners and residents said will be brought back for final approval at the next commission meeting.

Starbucks can appeal the revocation, which would be heard by the City Council.

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Arin Mikailian, arin.mikailian@latimes.com

Twitter: @ArinMikailian

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