A beloved New York restaurant has run into two unfortunate realities of doing business in the city: first a developer, then Starbucks.
Arepa Lady is a Queens institution started 30 years ago by Maria Cano, a Colombian immigrant fleeing drug violence. She began with a food cart, then opened her first brick-and-mortar shop in Jackson Heights in 2014.
But the building was bought by a developer, which will tear it down to put up a new residential block.
Thankfully, Arepa Lady will have a new home at 78-31 37th Ave. in the same neighborhood. There’s just one problem: The new Arepa Lady can’t serve coffee alongside its authentic arepas, chuzos and patacones because of the Starbucks next door.
DNAinfo reports that Starbucks has a clause in its lease prohibiting any tenants adjacent to its shop from selling coffee. "That's one of the main reasons we want to do liquor," Alejandro Osorio, the son of the now-retired Arepa Lady who runs the shop with his wife, told the online neighborhood news site. "No coffee, no tea."
To make up for the shortfall in beverage sales, the restaurant’s owners asked their new Queens neighborhood’s Community Board to support their petition for a full liquor license that would also allow them to serve wine and beer.
It seems like a heavy-handed tactic on Starbucks’ part, since its specialty doesn’t lie in coffee so much as caffeinated beverages (you don’t call a Pumpkin Spice Latte a cup of coffee, do you?) But it makes sense — at least in 2007, many independent coffeeshops hailed the arrival of Starbucks in the neighborhood as good for business.
Starbucks has also been sued over the practice of building exclusivity clauses into its lease in 2006, when a businesswoman in Washington state sued over her cafe being locked out of prime locations in the city of Bellevue.
For now, find Arepa Lady at 77-02AA Roosevelt Ave. and its stall at Brooklyn’s massive new food hall DeKalb Market.