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How a Starbucks With Beer and Wine Actually Works

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- When did Starbucks  (SBUX - Get Report) become Ma and Pa Kettle's General Store and Wholesome Family Fun Center?

Despite the fact that TheStreet reported more than two years ago that Starbucks was looking to add beer, wine and other food options to its evening menus, a certain segment of the readership had a good ol' fashioned tantrum when Starbucks not only reiterated that plan, but announced its intention to continue it in thousands of other Starbucks locations.

"I don't want to be around drunks," some wailed. "Starbucks is going to turn into a bar," others argued. "Sure, now they're going to put it in the drive-ins" the less sensible among you posited. "Won't somebody please think of the children?"

Stop it. Just stop it right now. You sound like what would happen if the townspeople from Footloose met up with the townspeople from The Music Man at a book burning and decided to make sweet love down by the fire. More importantly, you just sound uninformed.

Starbucks didn't just start its evening beer, wine and food service yesterday. In fact, "Starbucks Evenings" have been going on in a number of U.S. cities for the better part of the last year. Pilot locations in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.'s Dulles International Airport have been mellowing out at 4 p.m., changing over the menus and offering wine and beer to patrons of drinking age.

In short, they've been treating paying adults like adults.

But why just take Starbucks' word for it when we could go down and check it out ourselves? As it turned out, Starbucks Evenings has three pilot locations in Portland, Ore. -- including one outside the ground floor exit of the city's giant Powell's City Of Books in the city's Pearl District that's been serving alcohol since 2011. It's in a neighborhood of former warehouses, factories, auto shops and tool-and-die works that's now home to brewpubs, wine bars and farm-to-table restaurants.

My wife and I stopped into the Starbucks in question on several occasions when we lived along the streetcar line that runs right outside the Starbucks entrance. The coffee chain has been trying to put these locations in areas with high foot traffic and lots of public transportation, so having one adjacent to a streetcar, a block away from main bus routes on Burnside Avenue and about five blocks away from a light-rail line (and another Starbucks Evenings location on SW 11th and Alder) seems ideal.

At first glance, it seems like an average Starbucks. Folks in window seats and on couches still sip coffee and stare into their laptops, tablets and other devices. All of the same coffee drinks and baked goods available during the day are still available at night. The key difference is a few standing-room-only small, single-page menu with about seven food items and a wine list.

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