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Starbucks warms the pot, tries Bainbridge again

Starbucks Coffee is making another attempt to come to Bainbridge, if not under cover of night, then at least under cover of Safeway.

Once rebuffed by city ordinance and public opinion, the Seattle-based coffee giant plans to build a 15-foot-square kiosk inside Safeway, next to the checkstands at the south entrance.

The move came as a surprise to some local coffee purveyors.

“It was sort of a sneak attack – nobody knew about it,” said Judith Pertnoy, owner of Books, Bagels and Beans in the Village.

The city has not yet determined whether its “formula fast-food ordinance” applies, and has not yet issued the permits necessary to complete the plumbing work and install the kiosk.

“We’re trying to determine what the contract between Starbucks and Safeway requires,” city planning director Stephanie Warren said Friday. “There’s also a question about whether it makes a difference that Starbucks will be totally inside of Safeway.”

Warren said she hopes to get a ruling from the city attorney by early next week about whether the plan can go forward.

The kiosk will be installed under terms of a licensing contract under which some 150 Starbucks kiosks have been installed in Safeways, according to Starbucks’ spokesperson Megan Dehrbaum in Seattle.

“It will look pretty much like a Starbucks to customers,” she said. “They will be wearing Starbucks aprons, and sell the same ingredients and limited merchandise that are sold in other stores.”

The purpose of the agreement, she said, is to increase Starbucks’ presence in grocery stores, where a majority of coffee is bought.

“This allows us to put our brand name in front of customers,” she said. “We hope they stop in before shopping, or afterwards.”

Reaction among local coffee purveyors was mixed.

“I hope the loyalty of customers who want me to stay in business will help,” Pertnoy said. “It’s hard for a small independent to compete against a corporation with bottomless pockets.”

Hazel Van Evera of Pegasus Coffee said her concern was as an islander, not as a Starbucks competitor.

“We serve a different constituency, so I doubt my business will be affected,” she said. “But we need to put back to the island whether we need another coffee shop, and the island has already said no.”

Plan reheated

In 1998, Starbucks announced that it would open a Bainbridge outlet on Hildebrand Lane, where Silver Screen Video is now located.

That prompted considerable debate over whether chain operations such as Starbucks belong on Bainbridge.

The debate also prompted a revision of the city’s fast-food ordinance which was enacted in 1989 after McDonald’s opened.

The revised ordinance limited formula fast-food operations to the area on High School Road east of the highway.

During that debate, Starbucks withdrew.

The city ordinance defines “formula take-out food restaurants” as establishments that offer food or drink in disposable containers and that are “contractually required to offer standardized menus, ingredients and interior or exterior design.”

The ordinance came under fire in 2000 when a Papa Murphy’s U-bake pizza franchisee applied for a permit to occupy a storefront in the Village, outside of the permitted formula-food zone.

When the city denied a permit, the franchisee, Mike Cooper of Sequim, challenged the city in Kitsap County Superior Court. He argued that Papa Murphy’s did not fit the definition of a formula-food establishment, but also claimed the ordinance was an illegal effort to discriminate in favor of local businesses.

That suit was settled before trial, with the city paying some $115,000 in attorneys fees to Cooper’s attorney and to its own lawyers.

Cooper then opened a store in Kingston, and the Village space was rented to a bike shop.

Aileen Agricloa, owner of Cafe Madison in the Pavilion, does not believe the city should take legal action to prevent Starbucks from opening in Safeway.

“They have a right to be there,” she said. “All I can do is the best I can with my own business, and hope the customers remember that we are local businesses, and we are here for them every day.”

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