Santa Monica Starbucks Caves to Anti-Booze NIMBYs


StarbucksFirst, they fight against the proliferation of new housing; now they want to stop local cafes from selling beer and wine.

Santa Monica’s newest Starbucks at Olympic and Main Street, which was slated to be the third Southern California location to offer beer and wine, has withdrawn its application to sell adult beverages, Planning Director David Martin confirmed Thursday.

The move comes after local activists, the same ones who have been active in fighting against transit-oriented development projects in Santa Monica, filed an appeal of the Planning Commission’s August approval of the Seattle-based company’s request.

Starbucks, too, had filed an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision, which included more stringent time restrictions than originally requested. The approval also required that food must be sold to those ordering beer or wine and that a server must bring the alcoholic beverages to the customers.

A spokesperson for Starbucks told The Lookout News about the decision: “Since announcing the national expansion of the Evenings program earlier this year, Starbucks has been evaluating a number of potential locations in the greater LA area, including the store at [Olympic and Main] in Santa Monica. After careful consideration, we determined it was simply not the right time to launch the Evenings menu at that particular site.”

Opponents of Starbucks’ plans to sell beer and wine at the location, across from City Hall, said they were concerned with underage drinking. They also claimed that Santa Monica has too many establishments that sell alcohol.

In a letter to the Planning Commission, one of the anti-alcohol activists who later filed the appeal of the approval wrote, “The granting of CUP 14-003 will turn a coffee shop frequently used by teens as a place to study and hangout, that has built its brand as an alcohol free zone into a beer and wine bar. Where does it stop? Will you start approving the selling of beer and wine at every Starbucks on every corner? How about coffee bean and tea? Dunkin Donuts, Taco bell, Mc Donald’s, KFC? Give this one liquor and the next thing you know CUP request for similar business types will jump on this bandwagon.”

The permit was approved in August, with some restrictions, The Lookout reports: “The Planning Commission approved the permit on a 5-1 vote in August. The dissenting vote came from Jennifer Kennedy, who is also a City Council candidate. She thought the permit’s allowing alcohol service to begin at 2 p.m. (12 p.m. on Sundays) was too early.”

According to the appeal, it seems the anti-alcohol activists have no intention of stopping with Starbucks, citing language in the City Charter as justification for the crusade.

The City of Santa Monica contains an overconcentration of alcohol outlets at which alcoholic beverages are sold on premises,” the appeal, which was posted to Facebook, reads. “There is continuing and increasing community concern over the proliferation of alcohol outlets in the City, as is evident from the Main Street Plan, the Pico Neighborhood Community Plan, and the Land Use and Circulation Elements of the City’s General Plan.”

It continues, “There is a current and immediate threat to the public health, safety, and welfare, and the unconditional approval of additional alcohol outlets would result in a threat to public health, safety, and welfare.”

Had the permit passed the appeal, the Santa Monica Starbucks would have become the third location in Southern California to offer wine and beer. The others are in Calabasas and LAX. It remains unclear if Starbucks will try again in Santa Monica.

Jason Islas
Jason Islas
Jason Islas is the editor of Santa Monica Next and the director of the Vote Local Campaign. Before joining Next in May 2014, Jason had covered land use, transit, politics and breaking news for The Lookout, the city’s oldest news website, since February 2011.


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