Friday, March 05, 2010
Starbucks Bites The Bullet



Gun advocates have just sent a message to Starbucks (SBUX: 23.32, 0.4, 1.75%) customers: You can have my iced caramel macchiato when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

Starbucks says it is OK to bring a firearm into its stores in the 43 states where it is legal to openly carry weapons. Just don't get too jittery from the caffeine, and leave the coffee makers out of it.

"We are asking all interested parties to refrain from putting Starbucks or our partners into the middle of this divisive issue," the company said in a statement released Wednesday.

. .

Starbucks has been put into this awkward position, largely because of its iconic status as America's meeting place. And it has made a curious choice between the people who carry guns and the people who carry money.

[The brady Campaign's] Helmke is fighting a lost battle against what has long been the status quo, said Mike Stollenwerk, a retired Army Lt. Colonel with a law degree, who runs a Web site called

"Starbucks is taking the mainstream business position in this country," Stollenwerk said. "They do not want to get in a debate over gun-carrying regulations. They are in the business of business."

Stollenwerk, who lives in northern Virginia, wants people to carry guns openly so that it becomes accepted as natural in society. He goes to grocery stores and restaurants, and even Starbucks, several times a week with his gun at his side.

"Why do you feel the need to carry a gun?" I asked.

"Why do you own an insurance policy?" he answered.

"The anti-gun lobby has picked on Starbucks for having the mainstream policy of our country," he continued. "Bottom line: Free enterprise is going to mean that gun owners will get served in our country."

Just as people have the right to bear arms, businesses have the right to ban guns from their premises. Most U.S. restaurants and retailers haven't formally done so because why walk through this rifle range if you don't have to?

Peet's Coffee & Tea Inc. (PEET: 39.43, 1.03, 2.68%) and California Pizza Kitchen (CPKI: 16, 0.27, 1.72%) are among the exceptions--but I don't think they are likely to suffer sales losses since normal shoppers don't usually arrive armed to the teeth.

Starbucks is now in the unenviable position of having to calm many of it customers.

"Partners are trained to call law enforcement as situations arise," Starbucks said in its statement.

Hey, Starbucks, did you know that even preschoolers are trained to call 911? And who do you think is going to win? The guy who just snatched a gun from your new Second-Amendment-loving customer, or the hippie barista with the cell phone?

Stollenwerk said he doesn't encourage gun-toting rallies at Starbucks, but he has suggested that open-carry advocates thank Starbucks for its position by drinking its coffee.

So when you order the espresso, please be sure to say "dopio" instead of "double-shot."

(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. The column is published each Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. ET. Contact Al at or