Starbucks moving on down the road
Starbucks has opted not to start the company's "Evening" program in San Francisco. Photograph by Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Under Pressure, Starbucks Drops Plan To Sell Booze In San Francisco

Apr 14, 2016

Starbucks has pulled back on a plan to sell beer and wine at some of the company's restaurants in San Francisco, a notable retreat as the coffee giant tries to find a way to remain just as popular in the evening.

Local news has reported that Starbucks (sbux) has specifically withdrawn its application to sell alcohol at three of its San Francisco locations, reportedly due to worries that the initiative would hurt existing restaurant locations. Also to blame: San Francisco's already high density of liquor licenses. Both the San Francisco Police Department and Board of Supervisors reportedly opposed Starbucks' proposal.

A Starbucks spokeswoman confirmed that the company had reconsidered the planned timing to launch the "Evenings" program in San Francisco. "Starbucks Evenings" is corporate lingo to describe how the coffee chain hopes to make its locations desirable at night when caffeine consumption dips, by selling beer, wine and small cheese plates.

"We will continue to thoughtfully assess the opportunity to expand the menu in the future while working with partnership with the city," said Starbucks spokeswoman Linda Mills in an e-mail.

As Fortune reported last year, a bid to sell alcohol is another bet on beverages, a category Starbucks specializes in with coffee, teas, and newer offerings such as smoothies and handcrafted sodas. Years ago, Starbucks was able to lure in more customers during the summer months (and in warmer climate states) but aggressively pushing iced coffees and lattes. But visit any Starbucks in the evening and there are often far shorter lines and fewer people than during the morning rush.

Starbucks first began to test the "Evenings" concept in late 2010, when it started serving wine and beer in a handful of Seattle and Portland locations. It has since expanded testing to other markets. The goal is also to make this offering regionally compelling. For example, in the Pacific Northwest, stores may sell Seattle craft beer while Chicago locations offer local favorite Goose Island.

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