Protesters against Starbucks vegan milk prices shuts down West End

A PETA protest shut down West End Avenue Thursday morning. WSMV's Marissa Sulek reports.
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 10:33 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2022 at 5:36 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) -A group of protesters took a stance outside the Starbucks on West End about vegan milk on Thursday morning.

The street was shut down Thursday morning and businesses had to close their doors, including Starbucks.

The protest led to three people being cited and one man physically arrested following the protest.

“Man, this was entertainment,” said Wendell Johnson, who had a front row seat at the protest. “Man, they were fast. Within seconds they stopped the whole Starbucks. They just shut it down. No one could come in, no one could come out.”

Over a dozen Metro Police cars shut down the streets as protesters cemented their feet to make their point.

“Starbucks claims they area about sustainability,” Tricia Lebkuecher with PETA said. “Yet, it still charges customers up to 90 cents extra for non-dairy milks.”

She said the coffee empire’s extra charge on vegan milk hurts the planet.

“And by Starbucks’ report, their use of dairy is their largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” Lebkuecher said.

As with any protest, there was opposition. That came from across the street where Gavin Paraiso held a sign saying, “soy milk sucks.”

“Listen, there’s nothing better than regular milk,” he said. “At the end of the day, people are going to drink milk, people are going to eat milk, and there’s nothing they can do about it.”

Businesses across the street were also impacted. Kristen Vandygriff at Hue Hair Studio said because West End Avenue was shut down, they rerouted clients to the back.

“It’s been a little crazy, I’m not going to lie,” she said. “We have a full book today. All our stylists are busy. I mean, this is a big day. It could have been kind of detrimental.”

The protesters planned to stick it to Starbucks, literally.

“This gentleman, he’s the last man standing,” Johnson said of a cemented protester. “I told the PETA workers, when he’s finished, they owe him at least six beers because he stood out the longest.”

Metro Police said one protester was taken to the hospital due to foot pain from the cement.

Police said Daniel Bifano, 46, of Michigan, intentionally placed himself in the exit lane of the business, blocking traffic. He refused to comply with repeated requests for him to leave the property. He was taken into custody at 12:30 p.m. He was one of the people wearing rubber boots encased in concreate in order to hamper efforts to remove him from the property. Bifano is charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass.

Two women, Emily Slayter, 39, and Norma Hernandez, 42, both of Las Vegas, were issued misdemeanor citations for disorderly conduct. They had also stepped into rubber boots encased in concrete and were blocking the entrance to Starbucks, but eventually agreed to step out of the boots and leave. Royce Gomez, 33, of New York, who was blocking the exit with Bifano, also agreed to step out of the boots and leave the premises. He was issued a misdemeanor citation for disorderly conduct and trespassing.

Starbucks sent WSMV4 a statement in response to the protest:

“We respect our customers’ rights to respectfully voice their opinions so long as it does not disrupt our store operations. In regards to alternative miles; customers can customize any beverage on the menu with a non-dairy milk, including soymilk, coconutmilk, almondmilk, and oatmilk for an additional cost (similar to other beverage customizations such as an additional espresso shot or syrup). Pricing varies market by market. Adding a splash of any alt-milk to Brewed Coffee, Iced Coffee, Cold Brew and Americano beverages is offered free of charge.”

Starbucks spokesperson
PETA members protest upcharging for vegan milk at Starbucks.
PETA members protest upcharging for vegan milk at Starbucks.(Nickie Jennings/WSMV)
Protesters put their feet in cement blocks at Starbucks protest.
Protesters put their feet in cement blocks at Starbucks protest.(Nickie Jennings/WSMV)