Mayor Walsh, city councilors Michael Flaherty and Michelle Wu and state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry this morning backed residents opposed to a Starbucks at L Street and East Broadway, saying there are already enough coffee options in the area, that a Starbucks would exacerbate morning traffic woes at the intersection and would help to eat away at the family-oriented, mom-and-pop nature of the commercial district east of Perkins Square.
"There's not really a public need for another coffee shop," John Allison, the mayor's neighborhood liaison for South Boston, said at a Boston Licensing Board hearing this morning.
City Councilor Bill Linehan (South Boston) was the only elected official to voice support for the proposed Starbucks. An aide told the board that Linehan has "always supported retail use for that part of Broadway;" he pointed to the neighboring Tasty Burger and Dunkin' Donuts, which Linehan also supported. State Rep. Nick Collins (D-South Boston), neither attended nor sent an aide to testify.
The board decides tomorrow whether to grant Starbucks a food-serving license for a 39-seat Starbucks open from 5 a.m to 11 p.m. - or grant residents the 30-day deferral they asked for. Developer Michael Norton had originally proposed a sit-down restaurant for the space, but shelved that plan when the licensing board wouldn't give him a liquor license.
At the hearing, residents said L and Broadway is already a morning battlefield for kids walking to school, people getting on a T bus to downtown and commuters coming all the way from the South Shore on L Street.
But beyond that, residents said City Point doesn't need another coffee shop, especially not one controlled by a distant corporation in a neighborhood where most shop owners live locally.
Residents noted at least five outlets within 700 feet of the location that already serve coffee. The owners of three of those businesses - Molly Moo's, Boston Bagel Co. and Cranberry Cafe - testified against the proposal. Molly Moo's owner Mohammed Nahas predicted Starbucks would put him out of business and that it would suck money out of South Boston and send it out of town to "a big entity," never to return.
Other residents said the locally owned shops - and the locally based owner of the Dunkin' Donuts - always give back to the community, something they said the big chains such as Rite-Aid, CVS and Starbucks never do.
"There's only so many cups of coffee you can drink," one opponent added.
Starbucks supporter Kenny Jervis, though, begged to differ. "I drink eight cups of coffee a day," and in pursuit of a java jolt, he said, he's noticed that Starbucks has actually promoted the development of a "coffee community" in other neighborhoods, such as the Fenway, where they've opened up.
"We can't discriminate against which businesses move into the city," Jervis said, comparing Starbucks to GE, which the city actively pursued.
A Starbucks official denied the coffeehouse would kill off nearby shops. "It's a different kind of coffee shop," one that would be open late at night as an alternative to nearby bars, unlike the other local coffee servers, all of which close by early evening, she said.
She said that Starbucks has considerable support in the community. She said workers collected 100 signatures in suppoort in just a half hour standing at the nearest T bus stop.
When asked by board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini if she could agree to a 30-day deferral to try to reach some sort of armistice with neighbors, the offical said she didn't know how to answer, in part because "we were definitely caught offguard" by the opposition. Unusually for a large chain going before the licensing board, Starbucks was not represented by a local licensing and zoning attorney, or any attorney at all.