Evanston City Council postpones vote on Starbucks’ liquor license

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Annabel Edwards/Daily Senior Staffer

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl listen to citizen comments. Several citizens urged city council members not to ban e-cigarette use in Evanston.

Kelly Gonsalves, Reporter

Aldermen on Monday night held off on approving a liquor license that would allow Northwestern students to find a different type of buzz at the Starbucks in downtown Evanston.

City Council voted Monday night to postpone a decision on whether to grant a liquor license to Evanston’s newest Starbucks location, 1734 Sherman Ave., which would allow the coffee shop to serve beer and wine during evening hours. With the license, the store would become the eighth Starbucks in the Chicago area to participate in the “Starbucks Evenings” pilot program.

The aldermen voiced a variety of concerns regarding the license provision, ranging from approving the license too hastily to the use of false identification by underage Northwestern students.

Harlan Powell, an attorney who spoke on behalf of Starbucks regional director Paul Groshko, assured aldermen that all employees would be formally trained in serving alcohol and checking IDs. Every customer would be limited to one drink at a time, Powell said.

Powell said the casual atmosphere would not provide “incentive to have four cocktails at Starbucks” and that all drinks would be served in glasses to deter buy-and-run attempts. He emphasized the purpose of Starbucks Evenings is to replicate the early and mid-morning social environment with the addition of small plates and relaxing beverages at night.

Despite the attorney’s assurances, Ald. Don Wilson (4th) said the council should have more time to discuss the issue. Powell said Starbucks applied for the license under an accelerated process in hopes of having the pilot program ready for the holiday season.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) questioned what type of precedent the city would set if it approved the liquor license for Starbucks. She said she wondered if it would lead similar businesses to ask to serve alcohol, such as McDonald’s or Curt’s Cafe.

“Wine shops can’t sell wine by the glass. Why would coffee shops be able to serve beer and alcohol if wine shops can’t serve alcohol? These are questions I can’t answer,” Wilson said.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) suggested an amendment to the proposed ordinance to only allow Starbucks to serve alcoholic beverages after 5 p.m. and to clearly state these hours of service.

The aldermen will address the license request again at their Oct. 28 meeting.

“This is a situation where we are not looking to become a bar. We are not looking to become a tavern,” Powell said. “We are not looking to do anything but to extend the core concept of what Starbucks is into the evening hours.”

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Twitter: @kellyagonsalves

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