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Contentious Southie Starbucks goes for license on Wednesday

Starbucks managers at South Boston meeting

As other Starbucks reps listen, Regional Director Damian Waugh addresses South Boston meeting.

A community meeting tonight on a Starbucks proposed for L Street and Broadway repeatedly veered towards Parks and Rec style chaos as residents battled each other on issues that often had little to directly do with the coffeehouse - such as which local restaurants drove other local restaurants out of business.

In the middle of one such exchange, the head of a neighborhood association sneered at the owner of a neighborhood business: "What town you live in, by the way?" The owner retorted he lives off N Street.

A mayoral aide repeatedly tried to limit discussion to issues related specifically to the Starbucks, which would be the first east of Perkins Square.

Even the number of Starbucks in South Boston proved an issue - a Starbucks manager and residents could not agree if there was one or three or five; depends whether or not you count the "independent" Starbucks purveyors in Seaport hotels or not.

Meanwhile, Starbucks, at a meeting residents were repeatedly told was only about "operational" questions, could not answer many basic questions about operations, such as what sort of trucks it would use to supply the store or where they would park while unloading.

On Wednesday, the chain goes before the Boston Licensing Board to request a food-serving license for its 39-seat proposal; the hearing starts at 10 a.m. in the board's eighth-floor hearing room in City Hall. Three years ago, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved a restaurant with takeout in the new building on the site - which Starbucks says will cover its operation. Earlier this year, the licensing board deferred any action on request for a liquor license for that restaurant.

At tonight's meeting, attended by roughly 80 residents at the Tynan School, opponents raised traffic and parking issues and said the Starbucks would mean far more double parking than the Italian restaurant originally planned for the space, an idea that fell apart when the licensing board turned down its request for a liquor license earlier this year. A Starbucks consultant basically said the traffic and parking are what they are and that it's up to the city to do something about it, not Starbucks.

But everybody has to answer questions about stuff like that in South Boston - such as the co-owner of the Boston Bagel Co., who asked about those issues and about whether Starbucks would steal workers away from surrounding eateries. Another resident reminded him those were the same questions he had to answer when he sought neighborhood approval for his bakery.

Opponents also went after Starbucks for being a big chain, especially one coming into their mom-and-pop part of South Boston, not like that chain-friendly area up by Broadway station. One resident compared the pre-packaged pastries the Starbucks will sell with the handcrafted goods sold at other nearby outlets. The Starbucks would be a couple doors up from an existing Dunkin' Donuts.

One resident asked if Starbucks could shrink the size of its ice cubes in its iced drinks - a Chicago woman recently sued the chain over the amount of ice in her cold drinks - and asked if it was true that Starbucks was being unpatriotic and refusing to send its coffee to service members overseas, which she warned would not go over well in a place like Southie.

Starbucks Regional Director Damian Waugh said he didn't know anything about that, but doubted it and said Starbucks workers all get free bags of coffee, which they could certainly donate to the troops. Ed. note: Waugh should check Snopes.

After Waugh explained how a core commitment of Starbucks is to contribute to the communities it operates in, some residents questioned whether Starbucks would really contribute to the South Boston community. A couple or residents said they'd been repeatedly rebuffed at the West Broadway Starbucks when asking for gift certificates for charity auctions. When another resident said he'd gotten a $100 gift certificate there for his group's auction, some did not seem to believe him.

One resident tore into Waugh when he said that as an example of what Starbucks does, its workers and even some of its costumers helped clean up a park in Roxbury last week. Why is Starbucks doing something like that in Roxbury, where it has no stores, rather than in South Boston, where it already has one or three or five, she asked. Waugh explained Boston Starbucks had teamed up with citywide youth group, which made the choice to clean up the park, not Starbucks.

Starbucks supporters also attended the meeting. One nearby resident said she can't wait for the Starbucks to open - and to stay open at night.

"I'm so delighted and excited that people will have an opportunity for some place to go besides a bar," she said. When she complained about bar patrons urinating in her backyard, an opponent said they'd still do; a Starbucks won't deter bar-exiting backyard urinators.

Supporters said they didn't understand how opponents could support an Italian restaurant that would have stayed open until 1 a.m. was better than the Starbucks now planned for the space.

One resident rose and, after loudly declaring herself a tea drinker, she praised building owner Michael Norton for taking a dump of an eyesore and replacing it with a good looking building and said Starbucks should be allowed in.

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Comments

Are you joking. The only participants in this free for all were small business owners around the proposed location and outspoken dog walkers.

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What's wrong with dog walkers?

In any case, one thing that was pretty impressive was how completely unprepared Starbucks was to answer some basic questions and seemed to think that just being a wonderful, marvelous employer was enough.

OK, maybe you can't say exactly how much in charitable donations the store will give, since the answer will depend on just how well the store does. But you can't say what kind of trucks you'll be using to supply the store or where they'll park when unloading? In a neighborhood your own consultant acknowledges has major traffic/parking issues, that's not the correct answer - especially not at a meeting that residents were told repeatedly was only about the "operational" concerns about the coffee shop, not zoning questions.

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But they are right that it is up to the city to enforce (or in the case of south boston, not enforce) double parking laws. At any time of day broadway is choked with cars double parked, most especially at the east broadway/west broadway/dorchester st. Intersection, and even worse by broadway t stop.

It boggles my mind that at rush hour the city is perfectly fine with these major intersections being whittled down to 2 or even 1.5 lanes so that people can go buy coffee, go tot he bank, or do wahtever it is that they are doing.

It wouldnt take much effort to end this proud southie tradition to improve traffic flow from one end of broadway to the other.

Back to starbucks: it's not their responsibility to stop double-parkers on L or east broadway. It's up to the city. The problem with this effort, or any other zoning meeting in this neighborhood, is that there is a faction that will fight any kind of change to their last dying breath. Moving out of here and i cant wait.

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The complaints listed above, free gift certificates, big ice cubes, stealing workers are just pathetic.

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so when I mentioned that "southie" has a negative connotation to it...this story is actual proof.

that is why i call my neighborhood SoBo. please join me, Starbucks and the rest of the logical residents in the SoBo Revolution.

- The Original SoBo Yuppie

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You sound just like the whining dog walker. Maybe that's why we don't see you two at the same meetings.

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Sorry that If you thought my views were whining. But we can all have our opinions. my views are equal to any other abutter and resident of south boston. I fight for what I think is good for the town I am raising my family and business in .

Thanks

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...like the people whining about a coffe shop. a cop shop...::sigh::....

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COFFEE shop...not COP

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Per Maureen Dahill on Twitter, Boston Bagel Co complained that Starbucks would offer employees better benefits! How dare they!

Someday I'll get an explanation for when double parking is the God-given right of all trueborn South Bostonians and when it's a scourge on the neighborhood. I mean, I think it's the latter all the time....

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He said it wasn't fair he couldn't compete with a national chain in terms of benefits.

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I assume he's a strong advocate of single payer health care then ;)

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It wasn't a complaint about the size of ice cubes. It was somebody being sarcastic about the recent lawsuit where Starbucks is being sued for putting too much ice in their iced coffee.

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I mean, sure it sounded sarcastic, in a dry way, but then she started asking why Starbucks hates America and won't send our troops free coffee and she was dead serious about that.

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I wasn't sure, either. If she was joking, she's a master of the deadpan. And, yes, posing the question right after asking about the coffee to soldiers question leads me to believe she was serious.

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There wasn't one legitimate complaint. Big ice cubes? Double parking (that's the City's fault...and nobody cares when cares are double parked all along Broadway during church on Sundays)? Since when is it up to the City to decide what businesses have to face competition and which don't? There's absolutely no reason this Starbucks shouldn't be approved.

PS- I love how the residents say there are "enough" coffee places, and we should support "local" businesses.....then throw out Dunkin' and Cumberland Farms as 2 options. Not exactly Mom and Pop shops.

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how when bike lane advocates mention the double-parking, South Boston residents defend it as part of a grand old neighborhood tradition, but when it's tied to Starbucks then God forbid...

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After the meeting - and a fun little tour of the area by Eileen Murphy - I got in my car, which I had parked on Broadway, and made the mistake of checking Twitter and my e-mail. In that short time, some guy pulled up next to me, turned on his flashers and dashed out, leaving me trapped. In the greater scheme of things, he didn't take all that long, but once he got back in his car, he seemed to be doing the same thing I was - checking e-mail and the like. Um, no, buddy, don't do that; I had to get out and ask him to move.

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There is a simple solution to this, which is to ban parking of any kind along those chokehold intersections (Perkins Sq/Broadway T/L&Broadway) during rush hours of 7-9 am and 4-6 pm. Then redraw the traffic lines accordingly. It works on E. Berkeley Street in the morning commute (although that should be a 4-lane road instead of 3).

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It wasn't the beginning of 9am Mass or you'd be sitting there for an hour.

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This happens in other congested neighborhoods too. There have been plenty of times that I've been trapped by a FedEx truck, delivery guy, some goofball double-parked waiting for his buddy to come out. It's annoying, but common in any city. I've been late for appointments due to people double-parking in front of my parked car... and yes I've had to get out and look for the driver. I'm surprised this is the first time it's happened to you.

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Where the parking is plentiful.

Yes, I have had this sort of thing happen to me before in my life, but usually during the day. 8 p.m. or so on a street where many of the stores were already closed was a new one.

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Didn't intend on a Tour de force! Sorry you suffered a flasher finish to the night.

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I was thinking the same thing. Residents want to have their cake and eat it too. Double parking is a protected tradition when it comes to making safer streets, but it's unacceptable when Starbucks benefits from it. What a bunch of hypocrites!

The amount of double parking in Southie is absurd. If the parking turnover isn't creating enough open spaces at the curb, then the City should adjust the regulations (time restrictions, adding meters, etc.) But more often than not, I see people double parking when there are spaces available. They just couldn't be bothered to actually pull over, or walk an extra 20 feet. It's pathetic.

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Attitudes like this are why so many businesses fail. Everything is us vs. them in Southie and that is terrible for business. I'm selling my house after 3 years and heading 2 miles away, back to the south end, where I have no closet space, no ammenities, but there are many thriving local businesses because people seem to know how to get along and enjoy going out and being in the public sphere together. Congrats on maintaining your backwards traditions, Southie! And thanks for all the cash!!!

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Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

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NOooooo....

We need people like you in SoBo. Eventually the anti-everything group will die off.

Remember there are 33,000 residents in SoBo and the anti-everything group is a very small percentage.

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No, you will all just move out to the suburbs after 5 years anyway, or back to whatever part of the country that was so much better before you came here for a decent job and education.

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...and not going anywhere. just like all the other yuppies in my condo and on my street.

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Sorry, you are leaving when it's time for the first kid.

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Don't worry Sobo Yuppy, I still have two rentals here. I'll just be over the bridge if you want to visit. I'll be sure to pack my rental inits with yuppies to keep you company.

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It's too bad you just can't make a neighborhood work for you. Sounds like your own problem. And no, Southie isn't giving you cash, the person who bought your place did.

The South End is even more transient.

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Dont kid yourself. I made this money at your expense and doubled your taxes in the process. I'll sell to another resident who prefers a starbucks to a weird off brand coffee with flavored syrup in a dirty old cafe that seats 6 max and closes at 2pm.

I couldnt really afford to live well in my first choice neighborhood before and still retire early, but I can now, so thanks for the memories, Southie! I'll visit once a month when I stop by to collect the rent on my other property!

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the hypocrisy of townies is amazing!

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Well, in a sense there's one reason. I think it's pretty clear that a Starbucks is Plan B for the owners of the building, because they can launch with no further licensing approvals.

But Plan A was clearly a sit-down restaurant with a full liquor license, and our stupid fucking State-imposed arbitrary alcohol regulation has killed that. So in that sense, a Starbucks is a failure.

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All Dunkin Donuts are independently owned. The Dunkies in Southie are owned by Mr Gillespie who is more philanthropic to South Boston Non-profits than Starbucks would ever be. He gives more money and in kind donations than all you transplants will ever give in your short time living in the neighborhood.

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Hopefully not the one in Andrew that contributes to crime with is 24 hr business

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How did they forget Sidewalk, Cranberry, P.S. And Doughboy?

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No more coffee shops in Southie? We're good? Who says? Some people like Starbucks, or like buying coffee after 4pm.

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Not saying that at all. Just pointing out that there is more than just DD and Cumbie's. I actually prefer Starbucks, but I doubt I'd patronize a Starbucks at that location.

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You can choose to go to Starbucks, or you can go somewhere else. There's no need for the government to step in and decide what the neighborhood "needs" or who gets to compete and who doesn't. Consumers get to decide this everyday with their hard-earned dollars. This isn't publicly-owned space, it's a privately owned building and the owner deserves to make money on his investment. Clearly Starbucks thinks they can make money at this location, so let them give it a shot.

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I am not sure why you think I do not agree with Starbucks going into that location. I am not disagreeing with you at all. I responded to a comment that referenced Cumberland Farms and Dunkin Donuts.

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Or any parking for that matter? Any parking complaints I've made have all been answered by one of two ways:
1. Contribute to Imagine Boston 2030
2. Give us your feedback through Vision Zero.

What a waste of time and our money.

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Just let them open shop. If the neighborhood is really about keeping southie traditions then obviously no one will buy coffee there and it will soon go out of business anyway.

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If the city really wanted to make some good dough it would also be handing out tickets to those that park at bus stops like candy. $100 a pop adds up quickly.

Instead, the (overcrowded) buses continue to stop in the middle of the street because they can't get into the bus stop, blocking traffic for all.

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There should not be as many bus stops in Southie as there are. There are two on the same block at some points. It's ridiculous.

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to alleviate some of the overcrowding and I would gladly forfeit some bus stops. Unfortunately, the city and T won't do it because the residents supposedly want to keep double-parking.

http://www.universalhub.com/2015/south-boston-frustrated-poor-mbta-planning

I believe Ari O. addressed the articulated buses in the comments.

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Yes, the SL3 was supposed to run from City Point to South Station via Broadway then D Street. Businesses supported it, but someone important complained, so instead of Broadway it ran down First Street, which has some new residential but was basically all industrial back then, so it died completely - people took the 7 bus instead. Of course now it's impossible to get on a 7 bus due to increased demand, so here we are.

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Well sometimes it's State Troopers just running into Sal's or Mirisola's for lunch. The city can't go ticketing them now....

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Starbucks should pay to bump out the curb at the nearest bus stop so nobody can park there.

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....it will bump out where the double parking starts.

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It's because of too much real estate development in that neighborhood. The city needs longer term planning about how much to accommodate.

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Ah yes. Limiting the supply of housing and retail space. Always a popular move. And how will we decide who gets to stay? Oh, right, of course: Space will go to the highest bidder.

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What you are saying doesn't even make sense. You just put limits on outside speculation or have residency requirements.

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That doesn't help you if the actual number of people who want to live in the city vastly exceeds the number of available housing units. Vacant units owned by rich foreigners are just not a significant driver of the Boston housing market.

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You limit the size of new construction and the number of units per size of lot.

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Yes. That's what I meant when I said "limiting the supply of housing."

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When something as simple as a Starbucks coffee shop gets this amount of contention, it really is amazing anything ever gets done in Boston, or anywhere for that matter. Even out here in the boonies, some of the battles just boggle the mind.

I have to give credit to the people running these meetings because I would totally lose it if I were doing it.

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One resident asked if Starbucks could shrink the size of its ice cubes in its iced drinks - a Chicago woman recently sued the chain over the amount of ice in her cold drinks - and asked if it was true that Starbucks was being unpatriotic and refusing to send its coffee to service members overseas, which she warned would not go over well in a place like Southie.

I assume that the people who go to meetings and chide franchise owners for their parent corporation doing things that have ruffled feathers at Fox News, are the same ones that are posting anonymous racist comments on every newspaper's website. Question is, which is a more constructive use of their time? At least in a public forum, they get the benefit of actually HEARING the audience laughing at them, but you also run the risk that the ZBA might let the ramblings of madmen affect their magic-8-ball-driven meticulously reasoned decision.

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A Starbucks will double the increase in property values around that immediate area. Starbucks should have the comfortable leather seats, all the bells and whistles the whole kitten caboodle. Because there are cheaper versions of Starbucks.

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Something was going in there. I'm not a Starbucks, DD or any customer of this type of business. People on both sides addressed their concerns. Some people on both sides did it with a demeanor of vitriol and unpleasantness. So what? It's their right.
One thing I enjoy is the return of South Boston bashing. It's been some time since I've read quality stuff. If it's such a terrible place with terrible people one can go somewhere else.
Please continue!

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Yes, I know about vitriol and unpleasantness. I have covered community meetings in Roslindale where people told long-time tenants to shut up and sit down and fretted about deadly Legionnaire's Disease mist. I've been to meetings in West Roxbury where residents accused a developer of wanting to bring in pot-smoking derelicts and where a union member threatened a guy with a video camera. And I once attended a meeting in Hyde Park where somebody started yelling at a development proponent for having resting smirk face.

So, in that sense, I covered last night's meeting no differently than meetings in places I actually spend a fair amount of time.

But one thing that was very different was how quickly people in the room turned on each other - in other places, people reserve their anger and sarcasm for the people at the front of the room. Last night, though, felt kind of like being in a therapy session for a dysfunctional family - people were snarling at each other for things that had nothing to do with the Starbucks and, in that one case, questioning somebody's manhood, um, residency status, and doubting people's veracity.

Obviously, I haven't been to many meetings in South Boston, so it would be unfair to make any comparisons to scorpions in a bottle, but, yes, it was a different tenor than the community meetings I've been to in the rest of the city.

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I haven't been to more than maybe a dozen or two South Boston meetings over the years but I agree that the vitriol is usually pointed at presenters, whereas last night it was back and forth. Partly this was due to the issue at hand, and who was at the meeting (not the typical crew, I don't think), and the lack of control exhibited by the city's ONS rep.

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The Globe's Jon Chesto also attended the meeting and files this report.

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