Brooklyn Starbucks begins serving alcohol

At The West in Williamsburg, Matthew mixes the cocktails, Janel pours the lattes and -- at least on open-mic Mondays -- Fred recites some poetry.

"Maybe it's Maybelline that made you believe that you can't be authentic with another person," Fred read from a tattered notebook.

"We've had at least seven books that have been written here," The West owner Esther Bell said. "Most of them have been published, written about in the New York Times. We've had screenplays written here."

When Bell opened The West five years ago, she hoped to create a productive space for a cast of regulars as interested in the projects on their laptops as the poet performing before them, drinking as many artisan cups as cold-brew coffee as unusual beers and specialty cocktails.

But The West's boozier beverages now face a new competitor, whose latest offering Esther resents and fears.

"They say that Starbucks improves the neighborhood," she said. "I think it does the opposite."

Wednesday, one of the two Starbucks in Williamsburg started selling beer and wine after 4 p.m. --- one of only a couple in the city to do so. According to DNA Info, the Starbucks on 7th St. now offers four Brooklyn Brewery beers, 10 wines, cheese plates, flatbreads, mac-and-cheese and more.

"That means they're taking liquor licenses away from other smaller businesses that need that revenue," Esther said.

Esther collected 2,000 signatures and led the Williamsburg Community Board to vote "no" three different times on allowing alcohol at the Starbucks on 7th St., but the state liquor authority granted Starbucks a license anyway.

"It was a bit disheartening to know that we didn't really have that much political power after all," Esther said.

In an email, Starbucks chose not to address Williamsburg's efforts to prevent the coffee giant from serving beer and wine, instead saying it hoped to expand the program to other stores soon.

If that happens, it'll leave small-business restaurants, bars and coffee shops like The West, hoping their customers remain loyal, their product proves superior and Starbucks fails to find its own versions of Matthew, Janel or Fred.

"My name is Fred," Fred read to the audience, closing his poem. "I don't know how to use Twitter. I love Otis Redding. I'm from the Midwest. Who are you?"