“We can’t serve you. You need to be in a car.”

Starbucks. I like you. But we’ve got to talk.

Listen, ‘Bucks. (You don’t mind if I call you ‘Bucks do you? Cool.) You’re good. You’re a meeting place. You’re local (2-0-6 in the coffee house!). You’re a gathering hall, a “third place” as Bertolet would say. You’re chill. And you’re a reliable source for the New York Times, which gives us a reprieve from the anti-urbanists over on Fairview. Yes, there are some that grouse about your large size, or pushing out local chains (even some of the overlords on this blog), but I can forgive all that. You activate our urban realm, provide a vibrant street life and bring warm liquid sustenance to our cold, withered northwest cores.

carbon emitters: welcome. kids, seniors, poor, health advocates: go away
[ polluters welcome. kids, seniors, the poor, transit users: abandon all hope ]

But get this. I tried to stroll up to one of your stores and order a latte and I was told that “We can’t serve you. You need to be in a car.”  Say what now, ‘Bucks? That ain’t cool. I couldn’t believe my ears. Certainly this couldn’t be coming from the same place that built its business on pedestrian traffic in Pike Place?

But it was. Here in my little corner of Southeast Seattle at Graham and MLK, ‘Bucks you did me wrong. Nevermind that your little outpost is along the light rail line that magically produces pedestrians. Or that you are near some of the only TOD being built in the city. ‘Bucks, why do you hate walkers?

Know what’s worse? You made me go to the McDonald’s just across the street with a walk-up counter, and the nice people in there were happy to help me.  McDonald’s! (And remember, they’re your competitor now).

what google doesn't tell you is that only one of these stores serves pedestrians.
[ what google doesn't tell you is that only one of these stores serves pedestrians. ]

Like I said, you do good, but this does not live up to your ideals.

50 Responses to ““We can’t serve you. You need to be in a car.””

  1. industrialbiker

    I wonder what they would do if someone pulled up on a bicycle? hmmmm. I might just experiment with that.

  2. Brian

    The West Seattle drive through has a walk up, but this one doesn’t.

    Yet there’s a clearly visible disabled parking spot. Strange…

    I wouldn’t want to believe that Starbucks might not want the kind of walk up traffic that would be on MLK but does want that kind of customer in West Seattle.

  3. Peter Smith

    in case you don’t know about the whole bikeportland coverage of their deal up there.

    bikeportland is down right now. :(

  4. BeyondDC

    Handicapped parking at a drive-through-only restaurant is a clear indication that the city has ridiculous parking requirements.

    It wouldn’t even surprise me if this Starbucks’ lack of a walk-up counter is related to city zoning requirements too.

    The system is broken. It needs to be fixed before we can make real progress.

  5. Cap'n Transit

    This particular Starbucks doesn’t look like a gathering hall or third place.

  6. ktstine

    I would really like to know how a drive-up got permitted in a station overlay zone? SO, we don’t allow parking garages for commuters but we allow drive up coffee shops? This is crazy to me and completely undermines the rational for TOD.

  7. Streetsblog Capitol Hill » “Building Cities Shouldn’t Be a Partisan Issue”

    [...] from around the network: Hugeass City wanted a coffee, but needed to be in a car to get served at one Seattle Starbucks. Copenhagenize [...]

  8. Streetsblog New York City » “Building Cities Shouldn’t Be a Partisan Issue”

    [...] from around the network: Hugeass City wanted a coffee, but needed to be in a car to get served at one Seattle Starbucks. Copenhagenize [...]

  9. jmland

    BeyondDC: The city does not specifically list parking requirements for “drive-up only” facilities. This would simply be listed as a “retail sales and service” use, which is required to have 1 parking stall per 500 square feet (from the looks of it, it’s probably about 1,000 SF, so two stalls would be provided). The handicapped stall is then required per federal ADA requirements wherever parking is provided.

    All customers here may be presumed to be drive-up only, but employees probably need a place to park (Seattle zoning codes parking requirements are intended for BOTH customers and employees (did you ever consider that there might be a handicapped person working there?).

    I don’t disagree that it’s ridiculous that Starbucks won’t serve pedestrians at this facility, but your argument that Seattle parking requirements are ridiculous in this case is dubious at best.

  10. Streetsblog Los Angeles » “Building Cities Shouldn’t Be a Partisan Issue”

    [...] fear trump more evidence-based economic analysis? What do you think? More from around the network: Hugeass City wanted a coffee, but needed to be in a car to get served at one Seattle Starbucks. Copenhagenize [...]

  11. David in Burien

    Next time, throw on your Wonder Woman costume and tell the server you’re driving your invisible jet!

  12. Gidge

    Brian @2–I hope it wasn’t a decision based on fear of the walk-up traffic in that area. The Jack in the Box near the Rainier Beach Safeway is certainly in an area with safety concerns, but they have both drive through and walk-up windows. I’ve never heard of any serious incident.

    I think this is just poor planning on Starbucks’ part.

  13. Steve

    This is an easy one, guys. You get 20-50 pedestrians/bike riders to commit to coming to the Starbucks each morning for a week at peak morning coffee rush hour. You bring a list of their names to the Starbucks manager on a Friday and ask for a WRITTEN commitment to serve pedestrians/cyclists, otherwise your crew comes en masse next M-F seeking to order, with great deliberation and without undue haste, their morning coffee.

    How badly do you think Starbucks wants 1) lost peak-hour customers who get fed up waiting behind a line of 20 cyclists a few days in a row, 2) the chance to threaten police action against dozens of potential customers (for what? disturbing the peace while attempting to buy coffee?), and 3) the gleeful publicity from bloggers and local reporters as of day 2-3?

    Make it happen.

  14. From Ethiopia To A Stripmall Starbucks Drive-Thru | hugeasscity

    [...] and relegates coffee drinking to the realm of mainlining a drug.    Not to mention that they won’t serve you unless you show up inside a multi-ton shell of steel and glass.  Although just to make the [...]

  15. Lee Seattle

    It’s the lawyers again. They feel there is liability with encouraging pedestrians to walk/stand in the driveway. It’s not based on reality, but on the overpowering fear of lawsuits.

  16. sean

    Saturday, November 21st. Flashmob bike drive thru at Starbucks. Whose down?

  17. the other Brian

    I believe that Starbucks has a drive through on each side of it, and usually only one side is open. It seems that with a little creative engineering, they might be able to use the other side for walkups.

    It’s like walking in the rain and the snow
    And there’s nowhere to go
    And you feel it’s like your coffee they’re denyin’
    (with apologies to 10cc)

  18. BeyondDC

    jmland: If Starbucks feels their employees need parking, they will provide the parking regardless of city ordinance.

    On the other hand, thanks to the city law they *have* to provide the parking even if they know they don’t need it.

    So yes, that is ridiculous.

  19. Daniel

    I once tried to walk up to a drive-through ATM at a bank, and I was told through one of those annoying intercoms to step away from the machine (because I needed to be in a car). I had spent the last 30 minutes asking around for an ATM and this was the only one in the heart of downtown Bismarck, capital of North Dakota, open. I wanted to buy stuff but I couldn’t.

  20. jmland

    BeyondDC: Your original contention was that “handicapped parking at a drive-through-only restaurant is a clear indication that the city has ridiculous parking requirements.” Let’s suppose that there were no parking requirements and Starbucks felt that they needed no parking for this facility (as you later propose). What then happens if a person in a wheelchair works there? Would it be ridiculous to tell them that they’ll just have to take their chances finding a parking space on the street and then wheel themselves who knows how far to get to work?

    And if you feel that parking requirements are ridiculous (obviously the City’s only reason for creating the requirement is to be a nuisance), you should take the issue up with the City Council and the Mayor. Good luck with that.

    As for the lack of pedestrian service, I don’t see why they couldn’t have converted one of the three windows on the front of the building to be a walk-up window.

    Starbucks must not have felt like their pedestrian customers needed service, so they didn’t provide a walk-up window. It’s not required by City code, after all.

  21. rdubmu

    So which McDonald’s McCafe or premium coffee did you buy?

  22. We’re Thru | Has the American romance with the drive-through gone sour? « drive-thru lies – the truth about the industry’s greenwash

    [...] whole trend is the drive-through only facility, which restricts nonvehicular access at any hour, as this Seattleite found at a Starbucks. That the coffee chain, which once resisted drive-throughs as too "fast food," should now [...]

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