Coffee will likely always be No. 1 at Starbucks, but alcohol and food choices are now becoming an option for customers at select stores across the country.

And one location in Waukesha will soon add beer and wine to its menu as the company continues to change its business model beyond coffee. So how does some wine sound with that espresso or scone, or perhaps even a light meal, appetizer or dessert?

The Seattle-based company gradually began rolling out its "Starbucks Evenings" program in recent years, and Starbucks representative Mark Zanowski said the Waukesha store at 831 W. Moreland Blvd. is currently one of six stores in Wisconsin looking to add the noncoffee choices to its mix.

More night life

According to Starbucks' business plan, the company wants to bring its store to life "after 4 p.m." and the evening menu is designed with something different in mind.

It includes small plates and desserts to attract an evening crowd. Examples of the small plates include bacon-wrapped dates, truffle mac & cheese, chicken and roasted tomato flatbread and chocolate fondue with dried fruit medley as a dessert option.

Starbucks is also increasing its efforts to add alcohol in stores throughout the country, though no Starbucks in the state has begun selling alcohol yet.

"We're putting them out very slowly so this doesn't come off as a bar," Zanowski said.

Alcohol service hours will be 2 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. No alcohol will be sold for carryout or drive-through and an outdoor seat area will be completely fenced in.

All employees will compete jurisdictional safe alcohol service training, the company said.

Customers will first order in the store and the drinks will be delivered from servers to the table so employees have more control over the alcohol, Kate Becker, an attorney with Starbucks, said at the Feb. 18 meeting of the Waukesha Common Council. There will also be strict table service.

Waukesha NOW Poll: Do you like that a Starbucks in Waukesha is adding alcohol and small plates for its evening menu?

Common concerns

One resident isn't sold on this idea, however. Ron Kading worried about more people drinking and driving.

"We as a society have an obligation to ensure public safety," Kading said at an Ordinance and License Committee meeting last month.

He also added that allowing Starbucks the ability to sell alcohol would open the door to more businesses making this request, including fast-food restaurants.

Also at the committee level, Alderman Vance Skinner, who eventually voted in favor of the liquor license for Starbucks at the council level, initially expressed some concerns as well.

"I respect the operation of the business and the direction you want to go," Skinner said. "What I'm struggling with is this a coffee shop and this would change that dynamic."

But Alderman Erik Helgestad said what Starbucks is doing isn't "setting a precedent," noting that Roots Coffeebar & Cafe in downtown also offers beer and wine.

City Attorney Brian Running added: "We have coffee shops in town that serve alcohol; we have plenty of restaurants in town that serve alcohol where underage people can enter because it's a restaurant. There's no precedent being set."

Alderman Aaron Perry wasn't convinced of that point. He said while each individual Starbucks location would have to apply like any other business, he expects the city to receive more requests from Starbucks.

"The approval of this first location set a precedent that we would likely never be able to deny applications from any of their locations," said Perry, who along with Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings and Alderman Eric Payne voted against granting the company a liquor license Feb. 18.

Alderman Joe Pieper, whose district includes the Starbucks site on Moreland, said the feedback he has received from constituents has been positive.

"I have confidence and faith that Starbucks, just like any organization that gets a liquor license, understands the responsibility that goes into that license," Pieper said.

Given that the store is a block and a half from his house, he will be able monitor the situation, he noted.

Fairness in the law

More to the point from a legal standpoint, Pieper also said he didn't feel it was the council's responsibility to arbitrary deny a liquor license.

On that point, Running agreed.

"The law requires when we make these decisions on approval or denial we can't be arbitrary," Running said.

He said if the council is concerned about alcohol problems in Waukesha then it should review its alcohol policy instead of "singling out one applicant to be the example."

Running suggested the council form a committee to evaluate the policy. Mayor Shawn Reilly, however, wasn't in favor of this approach and instead said the Ordinance and License Committee can work with Running on an updated policy if it chooses.

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