Food & Drink

Bar Exam

Drinking at the Very First Starbucks to Serve Beer and Wine

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The Starbucks on Seattle's Olive Way is the first in the universe to serve beer and wine. Prior to this innovation, the only drinking options within a few blocks on Olive's curve were the bizarre faux-French bar Cafe Metropolitain (soon to become gay-gay-gay C.C. Attle's), the beer-lovers' paradise the Stumbling Monk, the nautical-themed Captain Blacks, the no-longer-located-at-a-bus-stop Bus Stop, the Irish-ish Clever Dunne's, the gay-gay-gay Elite, the fairly-gay-and-very-divey-with-karaoke Crescent, the cowboy-themed Buck, the tequila-filled Saint, the cozy Living Room, the art/music/awesomeness of Faire Gallery Cafe, or the speakeasy-esque Knee High Stocking Co. Or the bars at popular restaurants Dinette or La Bête. Or—if you couldn't decide between a caffeine giddyap or an alcohol whoa, or wanted both—B&O Espresso, or Online Coffee Company, or the new Arabica Lounge.

A market need identified, Starbucks spent an estimated grazillion dollars remodeling the Olive Way link in its massive chain, using green materials and appropriated reuse interior design. Questionably load-bearing I beams and metal fittings are painted a tasteful reddish brown; burlap coffee bags cover walls; seats came from the University of Washington, a tabletop from reclaimed Garfield High School flooring. The bar—there's an actual bar, with an actual bartender—has a bar top in that rustic, rough-edged-wood vein that's popular now (similar to La Bête, a stone's roll down the hill). A sign touting "Toast-Worthy Wines" (around $8 a glass) with a drawing of Washington State—four of the eight selections are local—looks like chalk on a blackboard, but the letters are not rubbable-off. Beers are Mirror Pond, Pyramid hefeweizen, and, oddly, Peroni; a salumi plate, a mezze one, and a grouping of "Artisan Fruit, Nut & Cheese" (artisans unspecified) are available at around $9 each. The smell of market research is everywhere.

To sit at Starbucks's bar is to have the unmistakable sensation of being in a recently redone airport. The lights are a little greenish, too bright. You can count a dozen people on laptops in the cafe seating nearby, one with a newspaper. Far too much of the inner workings of the Starbucks machine is visible—paper cups and plastic gloves, lids and swizzle sticks, grinders and makers, all part of your view that you're expected to ignore. Time passes in a disorienting manner; you feel that you're waiting, but what are you waiting for?

The bartender, however, is an amazement: sweet but funny, helpful but unintrusive, polite in a way you do not often witness today. He is not authorized to give wine tastes—the inventory-management system gets angry—but he's happy to pour a glass, let you try it, then throw it away. He knows all about the neighborhood; he used to work at Manray. He alone makes the experience almost—almost!—worthwhile. This man should be given the employee of the century award; instead, there is not even a space on the bill for a tip. It's corporate policy. recommended

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Comments (20) RSS

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"The smell of market research is everywhere."
Best description of Starbucks, EVER. Thank you, BJC! Your review exemplified why I never patronize Mr. Schultz's stinky green corporate monster.
Posted by Dingle Berries on November 4, 2010 at 2:29 PM · Report this
wasn't the starbucks in madison park was a 'cafe starbucks' and serve food and booze for a while?
Posted by friedchicken on November 4, 2010 at 5:43 PM · Report this
I though it was 15th St. Coffee & Tea next to Smith's that was the first Starbucks to serve alcohol? (it's a stealth Starbucks) That one opened a few years ago.

The next was the one next to the Harvard Exit theater (across from Ada's Books).

Maybe this is the first to actually be called "Starbucks".

Then there's awesome places like Solstice in the u-dist which have always served coffee & beer.
Posted by Jason Peacock on November 4, 2010 at 5:55 PM · Report this
danindowntown 4

Stranger writer goes to the new concept Starbucks and writes snarky review.

Predictable and boring; I would almost rather read Mudede’s mess of a tapas review.
Posted by danindowntown on November 5, 2010 at 11:44 AM · Report this
Yoder 5
Wait. It's corporate policy NOT to encourage tipping at Starbucks? I could've sworn I remember jars full of small bills at many a Starbucks franchise. Am I going senile?
Posted by Yoder on November 5, 2010 at 11:45 AM · Report this
no tipping?
Posted by Cecil on November 5, 2010 at 11:47 AM · Report this
jtuohy 7
So, the next question is when are they going to include booze in their drive-thrus?

No one really wants to get drunk in a Starbucks. It's like getting drunk at the gym.
Posted by jtuohy on November 5, 2010 at 11:47 AM · Report this
It's "Starbucks'," not "Starbucks's." The freaking spellchecker in the comment section even recognized the mistake.
Posted by j.lee on November 5, 2010 at 12:18 PM · Report this
Jesse Vernon 9
Nope, j.lee, "Starbucks's" is correct according to The Chicago Manual of Style, which our house style is based on. If "Starbucks" were the plural form of "Starbuck," you would be right. (E.g., it's "the United States' role in international law" not "United States's" because "States" is plural.) While Starbucks the company is named after Starbuck the character, I believe the current iteration comes from a dropped possessive apostrophe, not a multitude of Starbucks.
Posted by Jesse Vernon on November 5, 2010 at 12:53 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 10
A newspaper (well, sort of) using Chicago instead of the AP? That's weird.
Posted by keshmeshi on November 5, 2010 at 1:09 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 11
So, it's Chris's not Chris'?

Also, United States is a proper noun, so wouldn't that make it singular?
Posted by TheMisanthrope on November 5, 2010 at 1:19 PM · Report this
danindowntown 12
@ 5 The barista's and I would assume the bartender can accept cash tips but their corporate policy doesn't allow for tips to be written onto credit/debit card totals.
Posted by danindowntown on November 5, 2010 at 1:37 PM · Report this
Ah. I also assumed you were using the AP Style manual, which drops the additional s after a sibilant (if I'm not mistaken...I'll need to check it again when I get home). Also, I agree with keshmeshi that it does seem strange that you're using Chicago, although the "'s" use has become a bit dodgy overall.

Regardless, I stand corrected. Sorry for the interruption.

Carry on.
Posted by j.lee on November 5, 2010 at 3:23 PM · Report this
your article conveniently neglects the actual coffee house that roasts its own beans two blocks up on the same street that has always served beer and wine: Online Coffee
Posted by onlinecafe on November 5, 2010 at 6:43 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 15
Wouldn't it make far more sense to serve alcohol that you can mix with coffee?

"Irish Frappuccino, please."
Posted by Free Lunch on November 5, 2010 at 6:58 PM · Report this
i think the review is off. I find the whole bar there to be exactly as I like it. not the typical bar scene. the baristas at that starbucks are exemplary and Nik the bartender is second to none. Its worth it to go there just to have he serve you. refreshing and delightful.
Posted by Danny Stoddard on November 6, 2010 at 6:35 AM · Report this
@14: Online Coffee Company is mentioned—in the first paragraph, conveniently enough.

@16: The entire last paragraph is about the bartender and his greatness...

Is this thing on?!

And @15: Clearly!!!
Posted by Bethany Jean Clement on November 8, 2010 at 12:31 PM · Report this
Fried Chicken is correct; both Cafe Starbucks in Madison Park AND in Pacific place previously sold beer, wine and hard alcoholic coffee and non-coffee drinks. I worked there and made them
Posted by EXSTARSCHMUCK on November 8, 2010 at 3:23 PM · Report this
turingcub 19
Why are we commentatoring about AP style manual blitherings when there's this abomination of English "rubbable-off" sitting right there?

I need a drink.
Posted by turingcub on November 8, 2010 at 3:48 PM · Report this
@19 - Come on. That one is for fun.

I, for one, think this article would have been better if BJC had said something about how you can nearly smell the market research at Starbucks.

Also, I heard the bartender was nice. Why didn't she mention that?
Posted by STJA on November 29, 2010 at 2:30 PM · Report this

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