A controversial drive-through at the Starbucks on Marshall and Snelling avenues will be permanently removed and replaced with a patio. The plan is expected to end traffic problems that began when the coffee shop opened in early 2017 and quickly earned the nickname “Carbucks” and “Snarshall” from residents.

Plans submitted to the city of Saint Paul call for replacing the current drive-through with outdoor patio seating and a pergola-style roof. The current drive-through window would be used for walk-up service. No timeline for the work has been announced.

The property has been zoned for traditional neighborhoods mixed use since 2013, and no zoning changes or variances are needed, just city staff approval.

Starbucks is brewing up plans to replace its troubled drive-through with a patio at Marshall and Snelling avenues. Photo by Lou Michaels

Vehicles turning into the coffee shop’s entrance on Marshall often blocked the sidewalk and bike lane, and caused traffic backups that spilled onto Snelling.

In 2017-2018 different traffic control solutions were tried by Starbucks consultants and the Saint Paul and Ramsey County departments of public works. However, bollards used to delineate on-street spaces at that time were often damaged by vehicles.

Starbucks submitted a new site plan review application to city staff last month, according to city Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) spokesperson Suzanne Donovan. The plan was reviewed with staff from several city departments on February 8 and a DSI review committee.

Based on the reviews, Donovan said city staff are expected to approve a conditional site plan for the proposed changes.


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“The proposal represents a good deal of time spent by city leaders and Starbucks management,” Donovan said. “It’s a creative fix that serves the store, its employees and the community.”

“The proposal represents a good deal of time spent by city leaders and Starbucks management,” Donovan said. “It’s a creative fix that serves the store, its employees and the community.”

The conditional use permit issued to Starbucks in 2015 and modified in 2018 would be allowed to expire. The coffee shop closed its drive-through in April 2021. Under its previous permit, it was required to pay for a traffic control officer at the Marshall entrance and exit.

Starbucks corporate spokesperson Jay Go Guasch said the company was excited to announce changes to the drive-through, including additional bike racks and a bike repair station.

Dean Cummings, co-chair of the Union Park District Council land use committee, said that when Starbucks originally proposed to build on the corner of Marshall and Snelling, the neighborhood was generally in favor of the project because the undeveloped corner was ugly and neglected.

“It turned out the drive-through was more successful than Starbucks or the neighborhood anticipated and it caused serious daily problems,” he said.

The UPDC wound up opposing the conditional use permit for the drive-through and site plan changes, saying they would not make the drive-through any safer.

“Traffic issues at Marshall and Snelling since the drive-through was temporarily closed have been significantly reduced,” Cummings said. “The neighborhood expresses nearly universal approval at the permanent closure of the drive-through.”

— Jane McClure


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