Should Starbucks sell alcohol? Plenty of folks in recovery and beyond say duh, no way. Still, the coffee/lifestyle behemoth is planning to start expanding its offerings to sell alcoholic beverages at night, at a number of its stores. CEO Howard Schultz admitted it was a strategy for the company to “grow profits by increasing the average sale per customer.” In other words, YAY WE LIKE MONEY!!!
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
Lisa Passé, a Starbucks spokeswoman, said it was “a natural progression for Starbucks as we seek to create a new occasion for customers to gather, relax and connect with each other in the evenings.” Huh, okay. But…don’t they realize that tons and tons of customers already use their local Starbucks as a place to meet up, hang out, and connect with others? It’s not like Starbucks is lagging in numbers; it’s been the biggest coffee chain in the world for quite some time now, and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Regardless, if the company decides to go ahead with the selling-alcohol bit, it seems pretty clear that Starbucks will risk alienating a huge population of coffee-loving customers who don’t drink the hard stuff and who don’t have any desire to see, smell, or even sit next to someone drinking hard stuff (newcomers would be especially likely to avoid those places and situations, methinks). More than 23 million Americans are in recovery from addiction disorders, and from what I’ve observed throughout my years of sober socializing, a massive percentage of those addicts are avid (even obsessive!) coffee fans. Indeed, the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research “found that 88.5 percent of those studied who were in recovery from alcoholism drank coffee. Thirty-three percent of those coffee drinkers drank more than four cups a day.”
Keep Coffee Recovery Friendly
That’s a whole lotta coffee drinkers. And it makes sense; coffee is an integral part of the sober culture—it’s served at almost every AA meeting in existence for a reason. Plus, meeting one’s sponsor at a quiet (or quiet-ish?) coffee shop to check in and do step work is totally commonplace. I mean, think about it—where else can sober people go to chat and socialize comfortably? Restaurants, sure, but that can obviously get pricey, and bars are a no-go. I’ve done work with sponsors and sponsees from home (either mine or theirs), but some program folks don’t necessarily feel comfortable hanging at a sponsor’s house, especially if they’ve just recently started working together.
In any case, I’m not really a fan of Starbucks’ new plan. Not because I’d feel personally tempted by being around blush-wine spritzers or whatever wussy drinks the shops would surely peddle, but because I can see how more vulnerable sober peeps could feel tempted—or just weirded out—by having such close proximity to alcohol in a space that’s traditionally been nice, cozy and alcohol-free.