Starbucks To Offer Wine, Beer At Several Chicago Locations Beginning Next Year

Having already tested the model in a handful of its shops in the Pacific Northwest, some five to seven Starbucks coffee shops in the Chicago area will be expanding their menus to sell wine and beer by the end of 2012.

The Seattle-based coffee giant announced the plan this week, as the Seattle Times reports. In addition to the beer and wine, the concept stores will also offer small plates like almonds and bread with olive oil dip.

The new offerings are aimed to increase afternoon and evening sales at select Starbucks where boozy offerings "fit the neighborhood," as Starbucks spokesman Alan Hilowitz explained to the Times. The model -- selling wine and beer after 2 p.m. -- has successfully translated into evening sales growth at the shops where it's been tried out.

"It's something our customers have really been responding to," Hilowitz said. "They want to sit and relax, and maybe one person wants to have coffee and the other wants beer or wine. People also can go out after work without having to go to a bar, and people who are underage can go and have a cup of coffee instead."

Some of the new concept stores will be built in new locations, while others will be remodels of existing shops, according to the Chicago Tribune. The new shops are also expected to feature some form of live entertainment, ranging from music, theater or poetry readings.

Starbucks, all told, employs some 5,000 people in the Chicago area and the new stores and remodels -- attributed to traditional stores in addition to the new concept stores offering beer and wine -- are expected to increase that number, the Tribune reports.