Starbucks Is Not Fast Food According to Maplewood Ordinance, Say Officials

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It’s official: Starbucks is coming to Maplewood Village.

The potential presence of the national chain in the town’s quaint shopping district has been controversial, with some welcoming a retailer that will bring evening hours to a quiet end of town and others decrying the potential loss of mom-and-pop shop charm as well as the increase in competition for local coffee shops.

Annette DePalma, Director of Community Development for Maplewood Township, said town officials had reviewed the lease as it pertained to a 2003 ordinance restricting fast food chains in Maplewood and that the zoning official concluded that the lease did not violate the ordinance.

“The fast food ordinance refers to an eating establishment where most of the cooked food is already prepared before customers walk in,” said DePalma. “To the extent that Starbucks cooks any food, it is prepared to order. For example, if they offer egg sandwiches, they are cooked to fill a particular customer’s order.”

DePalma said that pre-cooked, baked goods are not categorized as fast food and, if they were, that distinction would “create tremendous difficulties for a lot of businesses in town.”

The fast food ordinance was adopted in 2003 to keep a KFC from coming to Springfield Avenue; however, the ordinance did not prohibit Subway, Dunkin Donuts or 7-Eleven from signing leases in Maplewood.

Contrary to a widely held local belief, there is no ordinance prohibiting national chains from signing leases in Maplewood.

DePalma added that BCB Community Bank has signed lease for space in the new Clarus building where Starbucks will open. She noted that a farm-to-table restaurant also planned for the building has a signed letter of intent and that there is a tentative resolution for issues around a grease trap and dumpster for the restaurant; that resolution still needs to be vetted and approved by the Maplewood Planning Board.

Another 1,000 sf of retail space in the new building is not yet rented, said DePalma.

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