Under the influence

My neighbourhood Starbucks sold beer and wine for the first time today and the earth did not open up and swallow the sinners within. One of whom was me, drinking a Muskoka Winter Weiss, with a free bowl of spicy pumpkin seeds. The Bloor Street West outlet is one of three to be licenced in Toronto and the first such speakeasies in Canada. In the U.S. alcohol is already being sold at 300 Starbucks locations.

The sun has been known to rise over the yardarm as early as 11 a.m., but “Starbucks evenings” start at 2 p.m. In addition to craft beers, five white wines and five reds are also on offer by the glass. My beer was $5.65, about the same as a soy latte. Wine is a little pricier. The Santa Margherita pinot grigio runs $13 a glass, a hefty markup considering that the LCBO charges $18.95 for a bottle. New foodstuffs are also available, from truffle popcorn at $2.95 to artichoke and goat cheese flatbread for $7.95. Everything is prepared elsewhere then heated up in a convection oven before serving.

It must have been a slow news day. We were the focus of crews from both City-TV and Global. Tired of long shots down the bar and close-ups of half-empty beer glasses, both cameramen reacted with delight when one of my neighbours, who trains guide dogs, came in with a standard poodle pup. Gretel did not order but I’m sure will be featured on the newscasts.

Usually Starbucks is a quiet place with a few meeting knots but mostly loners with laptops nursing lattes. Today, there was a newfound ambiance, a more convivial atmosphere. People were actually talking to each other. What I liked best was I got carded. At Starbucks, apparently, they also serve Fountain of Youth.

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