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If you were hoping to be able to have a beer or a glass of wine with an evening meal the downtown Starbucks in Evanston, you’ll have to wait at least a while longer.

After approving introduction of a liquor license for the coffee shop Monday night, aldermen balked at a request to give the license immediate final approval.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he was concerned that the approval might mean that any coffee shop in town could now get a liquor license.

Along with granting the Starbucks request, the aldermen were also being asked to approve deleting “coffee shops” from a list of types of restaurants that could not receive liquor licenses under the city code.

City Attorney Grant Farrar said the city has broad discretion in approving liquor licenses, and that just because coffee shops would no longer automatically be disqualified from getting a liquor license didn’t mean that any particular shop would have to be given one.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said the recently expanded downtown Starbucks on Sherman Avenue “has been packed with Northwestern students.” Given the prevalence of false IDs, Wynne said, she feared the coffee shop would have trouble staying on the right side of the rules.

But Starbucks attorney Harlin Powell, said the beer and wine service is already offered at several off the company’s shops in Illinois — including one in Chicago close to the DePaul University campus.

“There’ve been no violations or complaints” at any of the stores in Illinois, he said, adding that customers can only buy a single bottle of beer or glass of wine at a time.

A Starbucks manager, Paul Roscoe, said he opened the Schaumburg store, the first to serve liquor in Illinois, and that liquor service typically started around 4 p.m. and ended by 10 or 11 p.m.

Powell said at stores already serving liquor about one to three percent of customers are ordering drinks.

He said the company’s goal is to get more food sales in the evening by having beer and wine available.

Starbucks, he said, is a “third space” for people that is familiar for morning and afternoon hours, and they’re now looking to replicate that in the evening.

He said they plan to sell a limited selection of high-end craft beers, especially locally produced ones, plus a few wine options.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, suggested not starting liquor sales until 5 p.m., and Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, seconded her suggestion. But that proposal wasn’t voted on after Wilson moved to hold the issue until the council’s next regular meeting in two weeks.

Powell said he had hoped for immediate approval of the license to provide ample time to train employees for the introduction of beer and wine service in time for the busy holiday season.

Top: Starbucks attorney Harlin Powel and manager Paul Roscoe.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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