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Mayor Walsh Tells Starbucks to Withdraw Proposal for North End Location

Mayor Marty Walsh. Mayor’s Office Photo by Isabel Leon.

Mayor Marty Walsh came out strongly against the proposed North End location at the Charter Realty development on Cross Street, between Hanover and Salem.

“After hearing the concerns from residents about sustaining the culture and historic nature of the North End, I encouraged the applicant to withdraw the proposal to locate a Starbucks at the entrance to the North End,” said Mayor Walsh. 

“Our community process works best when we communicate effectively and work together. Representative Aaron Michlewitz and I want to thank everyone who vocalized their concerns and feedback in this process.”

Damien DiPaola of Carmelina’s and Vito’s gives an interview after the news of the Mayors opposition on the site of the proposed Starbucks in Boston’s North End. (Photo by Joe Mendola)

The news is a win for the “Stop Starbucks – North End” group, led by local businesses and residents. Without the Mayor’s support, it could be difficult for Starbucks to obtain the necessary permits for its take out license at 198 Hanover Street from the zoning and licensing boards.

As noted by Universal Hub, however, the Starbucks at City Point in South Boston received approval from zoning and licensing boards over the Mayor’s objections.

Rendering of Starbucks on the corner of Hanover & Salem Streets in Boston’s North End

Opponents of a proposed North End Starbucks made a powerful showing at a nearly three hour public meeting on June 28th. The issue at hand is a take-out license request by the coffee company under consideration by city officials at 198 Hanover Street, part of the Charter Realty development along Cross Street. The gathering was moderated by the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services.

A consistent chorus representing many North End businesses, along with several residents, repeatedly expressed the view that Starbucks does not fit at the Gateway to the North End, a term referencing the stretch along Cross Street facing the Greenway between Hanover and Salem Streets.

79 Replies to “Mayor Walsh Tells Starbucks to Withdraw Proposal for North End Location

  1. Wow. I didn’t want a Starbucks there but I don’t think the mayor should have weighed in on it. To me it’s the same situation as Going Banda asking for a liquor license and getting denied bc of proximity to the Wild Duck. Since he did involve the City, I think it obviously leads that we should be declared a Business improvement District (since we act like one limiting entrants) that businesses pay into to maintain the character and integrity of the neighborhood.

    1. At least the Mayor stepped up and opposed, maybe you don’t like him but he did save the day. And also Going *Bananas (a little grammer mistake there) that’s a liquor license, this is a coffee chain that could’ve easily turned the North End upside down. You sound biased.

      1. I’m not biased. Just fair. If businesses banded together toward this end under the reasoning of protecting the character and integrity of the North End, then I think they should also pay into a fund that cleans and beautifies the North End. If they benefit from a certain status, they should also invest to maintain it. That’s fair.

        1. My husband and I totally agree with “ cleaning up the north end “ and make zoning laws for all (new and old) buildings that blend with the “old” character of the neighborhood. Our neighborhood looks like a slum where any style and shape of building can be put up without any regard to blending into the neighborhood. This only makes our “ once charming” Italian neighborhood look like a mish mash of junky buildings.

      2. I, for one, am excited the gateway to neighborhood will continue to be a delapitated nightmare. Good on Marty Mouthbreather for grandstanding for the lowest common denominator a la Susan Collins.

        1. Yes, doesn’t the burned out building at the end of Commercial Wharf look nice? Many do not want anything changed there, either.

  2. Can anyone explain how this would be different than the Peet’s Coffee that is already at the top of the neighborhood?

    1. Owen Peet’s is near that small corner (Lynn Street) Starbucks is a big coffee chain that has no right being right at the gateway. You must be biased maybe too just like neighbor. The mayor stepped up saved everybody’s day.

  3. Again how is this different then Pete’s taking over the the space in Salem. Makes little sense to me

    1. The owner of the building signed a lease with Peets WITHOUT going before the neighborhood groups. Since the space was already zoned as a restaurant there was no need for Peets to get a zoning variance from the ZBA. Some people were upset but by the time the neighborhood knew, it was too late. The other Difference is that Peets has less than ten stores in the entire state of Massachusetts. There are only 2 in Boston …North End and Beacon Hill. STARBUCKS has more stores within a .5 mile radius of the Hanover/Cross St proposed location then Peets has in the entire state.

  4. The Mayor seems to need more to occupy his time than stopping a Starbucks from coming to the North End and crusading against short-term rentals. Free enterprise and the ability to use one’s own property in any legal manner are inherent in the American way of life. I love the CVS a store, but, is that in keeping with the “North End feel”? I oppose making up rules as you go and making them retroactive at that.

    1. KUDOS to the Mayor for listening to the concerns of the neighborhood. KUDOS to the Mayor and the City Council for taking the initiative to control the unlicensed hotels in the city and the disruption that these short term rentals have caused in the neighborhoods. RULES are necessary to control development, insure that buildings are safe, etc. Deal with it.

    2. Excellent comments about free enterprise. Every business, big or small, has the responsibility, if they want to succeed, to make their brand desirable to get their share of the market where they operate. It should not be the government’s place to tell a retailer where they can and cannot peddle their wares in an area zoned for business. Starbucks might just bring more customers for all the businesses the neighborhood.

  5. I drink Starbucks ..,,and thought it was a great idea! So now who can afford to go there to fix & occupy? It’s going to take someone with a lot of money ….. and I hope the GATEWAY doesn’t remain vacant as the eye sore it has been for too long. Let the games begin .,,,

    1. Pot dispensary and only a short hop from City Hall. A couple of puffs and next stop Mike’s.

  6. Starbucks is a monster out of control it has no family only the greedy investors who would like to see everything controlled by conglomerates. Italian restaurants in the North End arithmetic they are Charming and the food taste excellent and Starbucks doesn’t fit into the equation in Little Italy it may Force it’s way into your neighborhood for those yuppies who have mastered the $5 latte…

    1. I applaud the Mayor’s stance ,but just because he doesn’t support the Starbuck’s proposal does not guarantee that it is a done deal.The Starbuck’s cooperation is a monster and will most likely fight this. Hope I’m wrong.

    2. You’re dating yourself. Yuppies no longer exist. Actually, the young people who walk to work are professionals, and there was no push from them for Starbucks. There are plenty around the city. No one really needed a Starbucks there.

          1. Some ideas:
            – Fast casual chain: Dig Inn, Sweetgreen, by Chloe, Shake Shack, honeygrow
            – Grocery store: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Roche Bro’s, by Chloe
            – Convenience Store: Walgreens, City Target
            – Fitness / Gym: Equinox, Boston Sports Club, SoulCycle
            – Fashion / Clothing Store

            Not included (because we have enough): Liquor Store, bank, restaurant

  7. I meant to add: “that will be a viable business and last more than 6-12 months”. OPposing something without PROposing a VIABLE alternative is fraught with danger, IMO.

  8. The mayor did the right thing, he let the neighborhood decide what was right for the North End.
    Sure, there are bound to be inconsistencies and a whiff of unfairness but that’s life in the city.
    Today it’s Starbucks, what comes next, the Olive Garden? Please, no more big chain stores in the North End. We’re fine the way we are, just leave us alone.

  9. North Enders must unite to have a chance to defeat this corporate well-connected conglomerate giant. They should petition the State House for protection and create a “Historic District” to protect themselves from future proposals that defeat this area’s ambience and history. The petition should ask the State to give the neighborhood this parcel to enhance in our own way. A historical theme could be created for the plot, and perhaps a much-needed war memorial for its veterans could be built. Commercial use for this plot should be excluded.

    1. Are you suggesting eminent domain? Slippery slope. Ask former West Enders how they feel about eminent domain since you are so concerned about history. The other and more reasonable solution would be for all these restaurant owners to unite to buy the property.

      1. Eminent Domain was used during the Big Dig and the State still has Title to the Property and has plans to give it back to Boston. No need to do anything and start a process to donate it back to us taxpayers.

  10. The Mayor did the right thing for only one Major Reason as far as I am concerned.

    We have enough Drug Addicts & Homeless People combing our streets & Starbucks
    allows anyone & everyone to use their Restrooms, which would create a Serious
    Problem. The No. End is in dying need of a Hardware Store since True Value
    closed & just maybe there is someone out there that can afford $30,000 a month.

    1. There’s your idea. A north end museum and visitors center complete with clean and plentiful restrooms. Collect donations and may even charge a nominal fee to use the clean restroom. Restaurant owners, cafe owners, and all those interested can contribute or raise money to acquire the funds to buy property, which can then be put into a trust. Everyone wins.

      1. Exactly, The community can apply for grants and it could be a self sufficient Visitors center with Historic Plaques of all previous cultures in the NE using the design of the Prado and a War Memorial.

      2. This is exactly what belongs there and maybe a little gift shop/cafe to generate additional revenue.

    2. Up until recently Starbucks did not let blacks use their restrooms.I oppose a Starbucks at the proposed location but as you described Drug Addicts and Homeless People will still be combing OUR streets.Walsh should address that issue particularly because he has helped increase the homeless population. As for a hardware store at that location I think we can come up with a more attractive option.Some people refer to the location as the gateway and I doubt visitors and tourists will be impressed being welcomed by a hardware store.

        1. Michael D and Truth, The manager was racist and decided to call the police on those black guys just because they were waiting for people. She proably thought a gang or a robbery was going to take place and that’s the truth it’s terrible

          1. It wasn’t the first time either. They had to close every store for one day to “train” the staff. That also is the truth.

          2. I know the story. My point was that it was wrong to make the generalization that all Starbucks have not allowed any blacks to use their restrooms until recently. You may not like Starbucks, but do not make up lies about the company. Starbucks is fairly socially responsible company that provides stable jobs with healthcare and tuition reimbursement for a lot of people.

        2. Well actually 110% false when you consider the locations that employee minorities. This claims that employees can’t use a bathroom due to color? If you get outside Massachusetts you have a much more divergent employment environment. New England practices closeted racism. I’d add New York and New Jersey, but you’re more likely to be sued in those places.

      1. Case of irresponsible journalism where a low paid employee bounced a couple of individuals who dropped in and took a seat without buying product. Walking down the street, you will see signs that state “Bathrooms are for customer’s only.”. Not uncommon, but stop into any place on Hanover St, use the bathroom and have a seat while telling them your resting. Does this really mean “Whites only”.

        1. I was responding to a JOA comment that”Starbucks allows anyone and everybody to use their restrooms which would create a serious problem”? I never have been in a Starbucks in my life and never will.I am a DD ice coffee drinker[all year long]Truth be told the franchise has had other issues with black patrons throughout the country. In this particular case the two men explained to the manager that they were waiting for a business associate to show up before they placed an order. The associate showed up and verified their story as they were being let out in handcuffs.

          1. There hasn’t been a persistent truth that Starbucks discriminates. Race bating is popular in the press these days. A few months ago I was in a Chicago donut shop where a black employee told a guy, who was white, and I assume homeless, to buy or leave. There was no incident. This is common practice and this is why the Philadelphia police got these guys out. Starbucks’ CEO reacted by self-incriminating themselves and shareholders were incensed, fired the CEO. I have to wonder what the real issue is with local shops. Are they afraid that if Starbucks moves down the street from them, they will have to adopt the open bathroom policy too? Believe me, there aren’t many business that want to adopt that policy.

            1. T, there are plenty of other reasons to oppose a Starbuck’s at the proposed location than their policy of letting people use the restroom.i responded to a comment that their bathroom policy would attract drug addicts and homeless people to the neighborhood.The local shops are afraid that a Starbuck’s will hurt their business and that is exactly what Starbuck’s has in mind.They didn’t choose this location because they like the “charm” of the neighborhood.They know precisely what their doing.

              1. I agree that this is a bad policy, after all the CEO was removed shortly after its clumsy implementation. The descrimination that you refer to is based on an incident that you can guess was blown out by news media which now has become the “yellow” press. If there was a persistant pattern, you would see tort lawyers buying ads everywhere. But this whole episode shows that the North End does discriminate in favor of a single ethnic background and is drawing on a class distinction. Think about the tort lawyers again, how much these businesses have lost on this busted deal and who will pay for it now that the City has clumsily inserted itself into the situation.

  11. In 1919 the North End suffered the results of poor planning. The Great Molasses Flood’s tragic results clearly exemplifies the need for prudence when governing changes. On the surface, the entry of a Starbucks in the North End may be seen trivial in comparison. In reality, the impact could be just as devastating to the North End’s cultural ethos. The North End is one of the neighborhoods that sets Boston apart from Any Town, USA. Starbucks at its entrance would be homogenizing its unique flavor. Proper planning may hinder this encroachment of the mundane. As with most tasks, extra effort usually helps to reap better results for all. Boston needs to proceed with caution.

    Respectfully submitted in memory of my beloved mother and father in law who were born and raised in the North End.

    C. Gallo

  12. The other main issue to address, for starters, is the design of the building itself. I get that modern construction techniques are faster and lower cost to build, but surely something more in character with the buildings around it can be achieved while still preserving economic needs. The design will probably have to factor in the general type of business or businesses (one larger or more smaller?) desired in that location.

    1. I have seen planned business districts. They actually have codicils that can be followed and adhered to. From what I can see there is nothing in the North End governing displays, signage and exterior appearance. Besides, if something were adopted, no businesses would want it since they would lose the current freedoms that they have. Since the genie is out of the bottle, its hard to ask a business to adhere to something that doesn’t exist. Remember that was a single story, one block wide liquor store. Was a North End business, but sold the location.

  13. Truth: Starbucks are all over the place. No question about people of color. In the financial district we are all one and the same —- and you are right — restrooms are open to all clients. Only the NE would bring up the issue of the people of color using the restrooms.

  14. Now all the “local” business owners should start offering the same employee benefits offered by Starbucks seeing how pure and holy they are. Oh, and paying taxes too. I forgot that one. You know, healthcare, retirement plans, etc.

    The majority of NE establishments are NOT owned and operated by people living in the North End. I personally don’t think a SBUX should go there but that’s my opinion. But it does blow my mind to think of how hippocritical people are when it comes to the NE.

    I don’t have a horse in this race. But the owner of that property has rights.

    1. The City getting into the midst of this deal, will ultimately pay the price of breaking the deal. It might be a deal for Starbucks at taxpayer expense. Starbucks is under new management now. One of the reasons that the stockholders fired Schultz was due to poor STS. These they feel have been due to their own market density where Starbucks was said to be cannibalizing its own business. We will never know, but Starbucks may have wanted out of this deal and now they have the perfect opportunity, plus they will get paided to walk away.

    2. I also do not have a horse in this race…. but I find it very amusing that two “progressives” (in the current political sense) are pitted against each other. The mayor and Sbux both subscribe to the same philosophy – anti racism, pro immigration, fair wage, health care, open bathrooms, support of being “green” etc. etc. etc. Apparently that was not sufficient political correctness for Marty. Let all those “real” North Enders yell the loudest just like the Donald to maintain their Universal Studios version of “authentic” Italian culture.
      Do we pretend Peet’s half a block away is different than Sbux along with the very Italian nail salons, sushi restaurant, sports bar, proposed tobacco “products” store, dog bakery, potential boxing gym, Pilates studio, dry bar, Shake the Tree, Wild Duck and Juicery?

  15. Despite being a fan of Starbucks, I’m definitely opposed to its location at the North End’s gateway. It just doesn’t make sense and commercializes the area way too much. We already have the new Starbucks opening at Faneuil Hall.

    If it has to be a coffee chain, you’d even be better off with Cafe Nero!

    Personally, I would love to see something with lighter, healthier options, as well as brunch.

  16. I heard some kind of talk about Chippendale’s going in there.

    Male Strippers, I hope that is never acceptable. OMG

    1. What … If that ever got approved the North End would be considered nasty. Walsh, NEWRA/NEWNC would never approve on that. Whoever came up with that is on something.

  17. I doubt a tattoo shop could afford the $30K rent, but technically it wouldn’t be entirely out of character given that there already is one on Salem St. and this week there will be a glass blowing shop for “tobacco and related products” seeking approval to go in at 87 Salem……

  18. I’ve seen a couple of suggestions for a Whole Foods or Roche Bros. How would that be any different from Starbucks? And it seems to me it would it significantly impact the butcher, veggie store and other small groceries. It would likely put them out of business. I don’t see how you can be against Starbucks and for a chain grocery store.

    1. Whoops article just published. Citizens is out too or at least paused. Then again, Peets is out too. Lots of vacancy at the Gateway.

  19. BTW – I also heard from two different sources that Peet’s is closing down later this week, so there may be additional blight in that area real soon 🙁

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