Cooped-up neighbors from both sides of the border are converging on the upper Main Street Starbucks to get their java fix during the coronavirus crisis — leading to a traffic jam each day.
In an effort to ease the congestion, Starbucks has hired a Haverhill police officer to direct traffic and is doing its best to "be a good neighbor," said City Councilor Michael McGonagle.
Traffic issues at the 1116 Main St. shop were the subject of last week's City Council meeting, during a discussion item brought forth by McGonagle and Councilor Colin LePage. The councilors said they received letters from residents who live on heavily traveled Main Street (Route 125) and who are angry that Starbucks customers are blocking residents' driveways while waiting to enter the shop. Others pointed to near-accidents and, as one neighbor said, "chaos ... for a $5 cup of coffee."
"It's just a lot of people trying to get in and out of one business," McGonagle said. "That's a lot of people not leaving the city. It was Councilor (John) Michitson's dream to have people not leave the city — but not this way."
McGongagle was referring to his council colleague's quest to spur the local economy by boosting Haverhill's small business community. Residents have largely been confined to their homes since mid-March due to Gov. Charlie Baker's stay-at-home advisory, which remains in effect until May 18.
Starbucks' Haverhill location is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. for drive-thru business only. Mobile orders can be placed but have to be picked up via the drive-thru. Adding to the congestion at the Haverhill store is the fact that nearby Starbucks locations in Methuen, Lawrence and North Andover are temporarily closed due to the coronavirus crisis. The next closet Starbucks shops are in Wilmington and the New Hampshire towns of Seabrook and Epping.
Haverhill Police spokesman Capt. Stephen Doherty said Starbucks has hired a private detail officer seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the goal of "monitoring traffic and ensuring the safe passage in and out of the Starbucks property.''
"Haverhill Police want to promote the safe travel for all during this trying time and look forward to working together with Starbucks and the community to ease the congestion," Doherty said.
The ultimate goal, McGonagle said, is for coffee lovers to get their daily caffeine fix — and for the upper Main Street area to stay safe.
"Police and Starbucks are working together to alleviate the congestion," McGonagle said. "There's no quick fix, but this will pass. It won't last forever."