City, Starbucks say new coffee shop proposal won't violate city's ban on franchise fast-food restaurants

The proposed Starbucks coffee shop in the Island Village Shopping Center does not violate the city of Bainbridge Island's prohibition against fast food establishments west of Highway 305 because the coffee giant is not a franchise business, city and company officials have determined.

Starbucks is planning to open a new location in the Island Village Shopping Center on High School Road in the coming weeks, and improvements to the vacant building that will be home to the new coffee shop are currently underway.

Some islanders, however, expressed concern about the new Starbucks after the Bainbridge Review reported the proposed coffee store on Wednesday and have wondered how the business can be permitted in light of city regulations banning fast food restaurants west of Highway 305.

According to documents released by the city Thursday after a public records request by the Review, city officials and representatives of the Starbucks Coffee Company confronted the franchise ban during earlier discussions about the company's proposal in April and May.

Starbucks officials noted that their proposal did not meet the city's definition of a "formula take-out food restaurant."

In an April 24 letter to the city's planning department from John Nettleton, director of corporate counsel for Starbucks, Nettleton said the Bainbridge coffee shop was different "because this Starbucks coffee café will not be contractually required to offer standardized menus, ingredients, and interior or exterior design."

"The proposed Bainbridge Island Village store will be operated by Starbucks and its employees," Nettleton continued. "This is not a location that will be operated by a franchisee, and this store's menu, ingredients and design will not be subject to a franchise agreement or contract terms and conditions that require the use of standardized menus and menu items, ingredients and store design."

Although a Starbucks kiosk is located in the nearby Safeway grocery in the Island Village Shopping Center, that operation is a licensed location operated by Safeway. The new coffee shop is the first that Starbucks has proposed for Bainbridge.

According to a May 20 memorandum by Josh Machen, the city's planning manager, the city determined the Starbucks proposal did not meet the city's two-prong test for being considered a "formula take-out food restaurant" because it did not meet the first prong of the test — being a franchise business.

Machen also noted that the coffee café would include a menu for Clover-brewed coffee and "unique interior decorations specific to Bainbridge Island, including historic island photos and rustic maritime décor."

Under the city's conditions for approval for the company's building permit, the Starbucks store will have to maintain a menu that is different than other Starbucks locations and include a unique interior.

In Nettleton's April 24 letter to the city, Starbucks vowed to do just that.

"Starbucks has worked to create a store that incorporates unique design elements and offers a different beverage menu than most of the Starbucks locations in the Puget Sound area," Nettleton said.

Nettleton said the Bainbridge store would have an interior design unique to Bainbridge.

"Inside the store there will be two large community tables in the center of the interior space made from lumber cut from fallen trees found on Bainbridge Island and then fabricated in Olympia," Nettleton said.

"Above these two tables will hang custom-made steel light pendants draped with marine rope and fabricated by a Seattle metal vendor. Behind these community tables will be a 10-foot-high by 10-foot-wide wood wall that will feature a nautical map of Bainbridge Island and the local Puget Sound ferry routes carved and etched into the wood surface. Local historic photographs containing images of Bainbridge Island strawberry fields and the ferry docks will hang around the store and above a fireplace," Nettleton continued.

Nettleton also highlighted the use of the Clover brewing system on Bainbridge, a patented system for making coffee that is not used in most of the company's other stores.


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