I've been a denizen of these places for about 10 years now. To me, the Starbucks brand always represented a respite from three (3) off-putting New York things: first of all, from life in general.
Back in the days of the cozy, stuffed armchairs, before homeless people started snoozing in them and tourists started lounging all over them - sometimes three or four in a chair, like families riding Vespas in Italy - it was welcoming to "curl up" with a coffee and a newspaper (only occasionally a laptop), and let all the stress drip free for a minute.
Starbucks was also a glad alternative in the afternoon to the usually luke-warm, sometimes rancid New York deli coffee - left over from breakfast, sloshed up in a small cup with "I heart NY" on it, or some Greek vibe ("We Are Happy to Serve You") - further diluted with milk and sugar that you'd be unable to add yourself. There was hardly such thing in New York at that time, even only ten years ago, as a "coffee station".
Starbucks was clean. It was fresh, the stores smelled like coffee, and the coffee was hot. It was consistent, and even, for the most part, tasted like COFFEE.
This was huge! But then, some things happened ...
Starbucks 'opened up', in a way - its explosive ubiquitousness running neck and neck, in parallel, with the simultaneous explosions of WiFi connectivity, virtual 'coffice-ing' (LOL!) and the Gen Y / Millennial DIY ethos: Everyone suddenly sprouted a laptop, tattoo, beard or I-something ... and when everyone has, everyone can, whether they really can or not ... meaning, even the least talented crayon in the box suddenly became an "artist" ... "photographer" ... "DJ" / "Musician", "designer", "developer", "writer" / "publisher" and "celebrity", with fans and followers.
The coffice doors flew open for business, and in came the deadbeats - needing nothing more than a chair and place to pee for eight hours whilst creating their masterworks ... and still with the tourists and homeless people ...
The bathrooms didn't stand a chance!
New York City Starbucks' 'No Public Restroom' policy is long overdue. Now if only they could lose the music - or make it better. At least make it make sense, and stop trying to please everybody.
Do the nuggets and chestnuts of every musical genre ever recorded really need to be re-discovered, "curated" and shinily packaged and priced for us at $13.95 per collection?
And turn it down, man! It's bad enough to hear obscure, poor sound-quality blues records scratching through the speakers - songs which, for the most part, didn't find an audience sixty years ago in the first place, for a reason - but to hear them trying to compete with all the excitedly chattering Starbucks' "guests" and vaguely ridiculous barristas yelling -- not even to mention the tuneless 21st century descendants of these tracks, trying (too hard) to be foisted on us as musical "discoveries" ...
I should probably switch to decaf.