Starbucks sets table for wine, beer

Downtown store closed for remodel; liquor license sought

By Brooks Johnson, Columbian Business Reporter

Published:

 

A group of teenage girls in search of caffeine was dumbfounded by the signs in a downtown Vancouver window on Monday.

Their local Starbucks was closed.

The coffee shop on Eighth Street had thrown up a few paper signs saying as much as contractors worked on remodeling the popular cafe Monday.

Remodeling for what?  With a liquor license application in the works, it could be to ready the shop to become the next go-to spot for wine and beer.

The tight-lipped Seattle-based company wouldn’t say more than “We’re in the early stages of considering our Heritage Place store in Vancouver for the Evenings menu,” which includes wine and craft beer offerings.

But regulars probably have seen the notice in the window: a liquor license application.

The Starbucks Evenings menu debuted in 2010 and brought the coffee giant into another beverage realm it no doubt intends to conquer.

“We learned resoundingly that our customers want to come to Starbucks and have a glass of wine or a craft beer,” Starbucks vice president and sommelier Rachel Antalek said in an interview with USA Today last year. “There aren’t that many places to go in the evening where you can go very relaxed, very casual. It’s not loud. You can actually have a small group and hear yourself talk.”

There are a handful of stores in Portland that carry the menu, which also includes small-plate food. But in Washington state, only stores around Puget Sound have wine and beer so far.

The Eighth Street Starbucks in Vancouver has not yet been granted a liquor license, according to state Liquor and Cannabis Board data. So when it reopens Wednesday, it won’t quite be ready for the happy hour crowd. As the company said in an email for the second time in as many months, “It’s a long and thoughtful process and the permit filing is just one of many steps we take.”