Some of the talk in coffee shops, bars and some restaurants around town this week has been about Starbucks — the fact that the shop at Howard Road and Schnoor Avenue is being remodeled and the fact that the county plans to put a new Starbucks kiosk in the lobby of the Madera County Government Center.
When the remodeling of the Howard Road Starbucks is mentioned, the response is, “Oh, really? It’s about time.”
When the upcoming remodeling of the lobby of the Government Center to accommodate a Starbucks is mentioned, the response is usually along the lines of, “You’ve got to be kidding ...”
But nobody’s kidding. The Board of Supervisors voted May 17 to give the final okay to a plan to put together $255,000 in a loan and a capital fund transfer to pay for the kiosk.
But the county will not run it.
The kiosk will be operated by Aramark, the gargantuan food-service company that among other things feeds prisoners and staff members at the county’s correctional facilities.
In fact, Aramark will lend the county $200,000 of the $255,000, while the rest will come from capital funds derived from tobacco taxes. The Aramark loan will be interest-free.
In return for this, besides having the convenience of a cup of Starbucks more or less immediately available to all and sundry who work or do business at the administration building and have an extra $4 to pay for it, the county will receive 20 percent of the net profits. Out of that 20 percent, though, the county must pay off the $200,000 loan to Aramark. If the loan isn’t paid off over five years, the county will have to cover the unpaid balance. A risk-free deal for Aramark, should people at the courthouse suddenly decide they don’t want all that much caffeine.
The $255,000 also will cover some remodeling of the administration building lobby. It is unknown whether that remodeling will include tables, couches and semi-comfortable chairs, as other Starbucks have.
Here is one thing likely to be a problem: While the kiosk will be located outside the Board of Supervisors Chambers, will coffee be allowed therein? Right now, there’s a sign outside the door prohibiting the bringing of food and drink into the chambers.
Another problem: Starbucks coffee shops are messy places. There’s always somebody wiping spills off tables, or mopping them off floors, and that is not a simple thing to accomplish. A few weeks ago, for example, I spilled a grande vanilla latte on my desk, and it took me a week to get rid of all the stickiness. What if somebody slips and falls on a cappuccino spill? Will the county be held liable, or will Aramark?
County restaurant owners probably will be waiting with baited breath to see how this turns out. They know the restaurant business is tough. The average profit margin ranges from 3 to 8 percent. If Aramark figures out a way to cut a fatter hog than that, some of the locals may want to get in on the action.
If this plan turns out to be a success, you will have Supervisor David Rogers, who first promoted it as a way to raise more money for the county, to thank.
And maybe the city will notice it and install a Cinnabon shop in the lobby of City Hall.
(File this under “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”)