River Forest officials next month will vote on an ordinance to allow Starbucks to serve beer and wine at its Harlem Avenue location.
Starbucks representatives Monday presented the "Starbucks Evenings" concept at a Village Board meeting, proposing to add beer, wine and light appetizers to its menu.
Starbucks attorney Harlan Powell told board members the introduction of alcohol in Starbucks stores is a “relatively new concept,” introduced as a response to customers’ desire for more menu options.
Board members expressed concern for potential safety issues at the high-traffic location on Harlem Avenue and the easy access to the store's outdoor patio.
Starbucks representative John Antinelli said the patio would be closed off to the sidewalk, and a door from inside the store would be the only access point.
Powell said Starbucks has addressed safety concerns in high-traffic areas with features including planters or higher fences to further separate customers from outside pedestrians. He said the company has also implemented efforts to manage stores serving alcohol, including a “hybrid” of counter and table service. Per River Forest's village code, restaurant patrons who sit outside must order food in order to drink alcohol.
The Starbucks reps also said they haven't heard of any underage drinking incidents, or cases of patrons being over-served.
"It's been a non-issue," Powell said. "It’s truly a complementary offering, not a featured product… You rarely hear of someone ordering more than one glass of wine."
Employees undergo training to serve alcohol, which they’ve taken “very seriously," Antinelli said. “They’re (employees) 21 or older, and to participate in a store like this, they take on additional responsibilities that we hold them to and help them with."
River Forest Police Chief Gregory Weiss told board members he felt comfortable that Starbucks’ plan would not have a “major impact” on police services. He added he doesn’t think it will have an affect on teens’ behavior.
Village President Cathy Adduci said the board is pleased Starbucks chose River Forest for the new concept, but hopes safety issues are addressed as the company moves forward.
Village officials will vote on Starbucks' request for a Class 2 liquor license—and a request from Whole Foods Market to allow the sale of liquor at its River Forest store—at its September meeting.