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Williamsburg Starbucks' Liquor License Rejected by CB1 Committee

By Serena Dai | October 3, 2014 10:08am | Updated on October 6, 2014 8:42am
 Community Board 1's SLA committee voted to deny Starbucks' request for a beer and wine license on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014. The vote is advisory to the full board, whose vote is advisory to the state.
Williamsburg Starbucks Liquor License Committee Hearing
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WILLIAMSBURG — A community board committee voted to deny Starbucks a liquor license Thursday night, saying that it was not in the public interest for the mega-chain's newest location to serve beer and wine.

Community Board 1's State Liquor Authority committee cited rival coffee shop The West's petition — which garnered about 500 signatures — as proof that residents do not consider the liquor license necessary for the chain's new 154 N. Seventh St. location.

The shop, Starbucks' second in Williamsburg, falls under the 500 foot rule, which means any establishment applying for a liquor license within 500 feet of several other venues that already serve alcohol must prove the additional license is necessary for the public interest, said the board's SLA committee co-chair Thomas Burrows.

Burrows said in this case, "the public says there isn't an interest."

The board vote followed impassioned arguments made by several locals, including Esther Bell from The West, which is located at 379 Union Ave., just a block away from the new Starbucks.

Bell said she launched a petition after hearing about Starbucks' request for a license to sell beer and wine on Monday, because she is concerned it will threaten small businesses in the neighborhood.

"We don't need them to take over Brooklyn," said Bell, who was applauded by the residents on Thursday.

The SLA committees' vote is advisory to the full Community Board, which traditionally follows the committee vote. The full board's vote is advisory to the SLA.

Starbucks representative Nelson Daza told the committee that Starbucks wanted to open with alcohol as "an extension of our brand." About 30 stores currently serve alcohol and an expanded food menu, he said, noting that alcohol isn't served until after 4 p.m.

Starbucks has one other location in New York that serves alcohol, a cafe in Macy's that goes by the name Herald Square Cafe. It is not clear if the upcoming Williamsburg location would feature the Starbucks name or follow the Herald Square model.

Serving wine and beer is looked at as a necessity for this market, Daza said.

The chain is paying $155 per square foot for the 2,900-square-foot space, Daza said.

"It's about the experience we're bringing to the Williamsburg community," he said.

Previously, the Seattle-based company has said that it plans on starting booze sales at thousands of stores across the country — a concept that works best in urban areas where people tend to be out at night.

"People do meet at Starbucks," Daza said.

The full board will vote on the license at its meeting on Oct. 20. Daza declined to comment after the meeting.