By Alicia Bermudez and Demi Guo
The Long Beach community is protesting the local Starbucks’ license to sell beer and wine as part of their new Evening Menu. The West Park Avenue location, which is near Long Beach’s Kennedy Plaza and city hall, is one of six approved Starbucks’ on Long Island.
“If you want to be part of this community, you need to listen to this community,” Judi Vining, executive director of Long Beach Aware, an advocacy group against underage drinking and drug use prevention, said. Starbucks is located right next to the public library, she said, and it is considered a safe haven for children without having alcohol around.
Starbucks representatives say the Long Island locations could start serving by this spring. The evening menu, which includes wine, beer and small-plates dishes, is meant to extend ideal “Starbucks Experience” during later hours, according to the Starbucks website.
There has been a 20 percent spike in alcohol use in Long Beach since 2013 after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area, she said. In a 2014-2015 Youth Development Survey conducted by the Long Beach City School District, results show that alcohol use has increased 16.6 percent in high school seniors and 24.6 percent in high school juniors since 2013. Vining argued that there is scientific research showing that the more places that offer alcohol, the more underage drinking takes place.
Parts of the community including Long Beach City School District and the City Council, have written letters to Starbucks to withdraw the application for a license, Vining said. Since there has been so much community opposition, the location can only serve alcoholic beverages between 5:30 and 10 p.m.
But Starbucks is not the cause of underage drinking, Vining says. If anyone in the area wants alcohol there are 87 other places to obtain it, according to the New York State Liquor Authority.
Another Starbucks location on Long Island obtaining its license in Hauppauge has been taking extra precautions in training their staff to serve alcohol.
“Behind the counter we’re all being trained very, very thoroughly on how to help people and how to handle people when they are drinking,” Bryan Diana, a Starbucks employee, said. “Starbucks has to go through such great lengths to acquire the license and we all have to be essentially professionally trained to know how to deal with the ambiance that comes with serving alcohol,” he said.
“We’re also in the early stages of considering bringing the evening menu to neighboring Long Island communities, Erin, a Starbucks spokesperson who would only give her first name, said. “It’s a long and thoughtful process and the permit filing is just one of many steps we take.”