Over Coffee, Commission Discusses Central Sq.

The Cambridge License Commission ruled at last night's meeting that it would wait until Thursday to consider Starbucks Coffee's application for a license to operate in Central Square.

And there is more at stake in this decision then the fate of one coffee shop.

The proposal to build a Starbucks at the corner of Prospect Street and Mass. Ave. is part of a larger issue involving the future character of Central Square. Many worry that the addition of a Starbucks could open the door for larger chains that would not necessarily service local residents.

"It is a curious calculus, a riddle to be solved," said Kenneth E. Reeves '72, former mayor and city councillor. "Our intention is to improve Central Square without sweeping away the residents."

Reeves said that the existence of eight other coffee shops located within one mile of the proposed Starbucks location should not be a factor in the commission's decision.


"I don't have an opinion on coffee. I drink my coffee at home," he said. "We need to try and focus on the future of Central Square."

Commission Chair Benjamin C. Barnes said he delayed the vote on Starbucks' license application to allow area business owners to formally indicate their position.

"You need to file something that says you disagree" with the recent Zoning Board decision to allow the new shop, Barnes told a lawyer who represented one Central Square firm and spoke in opposition to the new coffee house.

Starbucks' lawyers said they disagreed with Barnes' logic.

"There is no justification for a delay of this decision," said James Rafferty, an attorney on behalf of Starbucks Coffee Inc. "We would not be here [in front of the licensing commis- sion] if the zoning board had not approved."

But most local area business owners said they are opposed to the entrance of a Starbucks.

"I chose to invest my money in Central Square, and I don't want my Square to end up like Harvard Square," said Dana Stone, proprietor of the Venus Coffee House. "I don't want the area to lose that vibrancy, that ethnic mix, and that flavor."

Gerard Wolf, owner of the 1369 Coffee House, said that he felt Starbucks received special treatment from the Zoning Board when the corporation was approved to build at the corner of Prospect Street and Mass. Ave.

"I do believe that there is a little hoodwinking going on here," he said. "If they follow the right procedures, then I say welcome to the neighborhood."

Local coffee shop owners said they are not necessarily worried about a drop in customer volume if Starbucks comes to the area.

"We have different clientele," said John Sudbury, owner of Cafe Liberty in Central Square. "There are yuppies going into Starbucks and goth people and MIT nerds going into my place."