Selected Canadian Starbucks begin serving booze on Tuesday

Starbucks, the coffeehouse giant known for its Frappuccinos, lattes and scones, is now adding booze to the menu. This coming Tuesday, three Starbucks locations in Toronto will start serving beer and wine.

The coffeehouse giant is adding beer and wine to the menu

Starbucks will soon start serving beer and wine at 3 Toronto locations, beginning at 2 p.m. (Starbucks)

Starbucks, the coffeehouse giant known for its Frappuccinos, lattes and scones, is now adding booze to the menu.

This coming Tuesday, three Starbucks locations in Toronto will start serving beer and wine.

The drinking won't start until later in the day. Dubbed Starbucks Evenings, customers at the selected cafés can begin ordering everything from Prosecco and Chardonnay to Canadian craft beer, starting at 2 p.m. 

To accompany your glass of spirits, Starbucks will also offer a variety of fancy hors d'oeuvres. Selections include bacon-wrapped dates and truffle mac and cheese.
Starbucks Evenings menu item, truffle mac and cheese (Starbucks)

The Seattle-based chain hopes to eventually expand Starbucks Evenings to other locations across Canada.

"It's the beginning of something," said Jessica Mills, director of brand and digital with Starbucks Canada.

The company is already serving alcohol at more than 300 U.S. locations, plus one in the U.K. and one in Japan. The Japanese café apparently offers Frappuccinos spiked with blueberry wine.

"Coffee is certainly a morning business," said Mills. By serving nibbles and alcoholic drinks starting in the afternoon, Starbucks hopes to bring back patrons for another round.

"It offers really a new occasion for our customers to come in, connect later in the day, have a sophisticated experience in a trusted environment," she said.

Starbucks takes on neighbourhood bar

But retail analyst, Kenneth Wong questions whether those yearning for booze will head to a coffeehouse.

"There may be some people who try it out as a novelty," said the Queen's University marketing professor.

But, he added, "I don't see alcohol as making me say, oh yeah, I think I'm going to go to Starbucks instead of my local watering hole."

Mills didn't have statistics but says so far, the Starbucks Evenings initiative in the U.S. has proven to be a success.

"It is a program that is certainly being embraced by our customers and communities," she stated.

At a Toronto Starbucks, regular Richard Morris said he could see himself returning for a nightcap.

"Some days, when I have a hard time at the office, yes, I would probably get a glass of white wine."

He added, "I look at Starbucks as not just a coffee place. I look at it as a place to gather."

Rowdy cafe?

But some customers had a hard time grasping the idea of booze at their beloved coffee joint.

"It kind of ruins it a little bit because you just want a place where you can sit down and decompress," said Michelle Lewis.

"If someone was drinking and carrying on here, it kind of changes the atmosphere."
Toronto Starbucks customer Michelle Lewis is concerned about alcohol being served at a place where she likes to relax. (CBC)

Mills says rowdy, drunken patrons haven't been an issue at the U.S. locations.

She also said the cafés offering alcohol are carefully chosen to make sure they're a good fit for the community and the location.

"It's all about the site selection and knowing who the customer is already in that neighbourhood," she said.
Starbucks Evenings menu item, bacon-wrapped dates with balsamic glaze.

The company is also selecting stores with room for things like plentiful seating and tables, wine glass storage, and extra fridge space.

Mills adds that serving alcohol will not tarnish Starbuck's image as a popular coffeehouse.

"For us, coffee is always going to be at the heart of what we do," she said.

Toronto Starbucks locations that will start serving wine and beer:

  • 3079 Bloor St. W.
  • 446 Spadina Rd.
  • 1740 Avenue Rd.

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