Starbucks to offer beer and wine at Issaquah location
June 7, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
Starbucks plans to offer a different kind of jolt to Issaquah customers soon.
The bustling Starbucks at the Meadows complex along Northwest Gilman Boulevard is in line to become the only store other than Seattle and Portland, Ore., so far to offer beer and wine.
The coffee colossus filed for a liquor license last month as Starbucks prepares to renovate the Issaquah location in late summer. The project is due to start in early August and should be completed in late September.
Plans call for the location to remain open during construction, although some seating might be unavailable for stretches during the remodel.
The overhaul marks Starbucks’ inaugural attempt to offer alcohol options and additional menu offerings in a suburban setting. Imagine charcuterie and a cheese plate — savory snacks to accompany the craft beers and regional wines Starbucks plans to offer.
The customer base and buzzing traffic at the Issaquah store offer the Seattle-based company a chance to test a concept honed at Emerald City locations.
“It’s a very mixed-use store. You’ve got every type of Starbucks customer there, from students to businesspeople to folks meeting with groups after work,” Starbucks spokeswoman Stacey Krum said.
(Starbucks does not release customer figures on a per-store basis.)
The proposed design details include reclaimed wood, including a bar fashioned from salvaged telephone poles, and, in a nod to the Issaquah location, a metal-and-wood art piece inspired by the autumn salmon run — touches to remake a plain-Jane Starbucks into a unique destination.
Expect different seating options in the remade coffee shop, too, as Starbucks rolls out a more flexible format so customers can move furniture for gatherings. The concept also includes a children’s area.
“If you go into the store now, it’s a pretty standard setup with the tables and the café chairs,” Krum said. “One of the things we’re going to be changing is different seating zones. There’ll be more soft seating. There’ll be some high seating.”
Starbucks also plans to add a Clover brewing system at the Issaquah store. The stainless steel machine uses vacuum methods to produce a cup of coffee considered superior to the result from a drip coffee maker. Starbucks baristas, or partners in company parlance, operate a handful of the machines at Seattle stores.
“Partners can do coffee tastings and really help people figure out, do they like Latin American coffees? Are they more interested in something from Sumatra?” Krum said.
Before alcohol sales can start, the Washington State Liquor Control Board usually requires about 60 to 90 days to process a liquor license application. State law requires approved businesses to post signage about alcohol sales, and employees must undergo alcohol server training.
The state has processed a handful of liquor license applications from Starbucks in recent months as the company expands beer and wine sales.
“They’re trying this kind of a model in certain places,” Washington State Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith said.
In Seattle, the popular East Olive Way Starbucks received a high-profile makeover last year and relaunched in October. Starbucks is due to open a similar store in Portland in the Pearl District near iconic Powell’s Books in the days ahead. The updated stores feature beer, wine and menus beyond the usual coffee, muffins and scones.
The planned Issaquah remodel also incorporates ideas from Roy Street Coffee & Tea and 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea, or “learning lab” stores in Starbucks lingo. The company eschewed green aprons and venti-size cups for the locations — a concept derided as “stealth Starbucks” by critics.
In Issaquah, Starbucks operates a store along East Lake Sammamish Parkway Southeast near The Home Depot, plus counters in the local Fred Meyer, QFC and Safeway. The soon-to-open Swedish Medical Center campus in the Issaquah Highlands also features a Starbucks.
Krum said employees at the Meadows location started alerting customers to coming changes in recent weeks and received positive feedback.
“Those are passionate customers and we’re really looking forward to hearing from them what they think,” she added.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.