Yuppie Latte Can't Budge Pentagon Joe

January 06, 1994|By Les Blumenthal | Les Blumenthal,McClatchy News Service

WASHINGTON -- First, they couldn't handle women in combat. Then, it was gays in the military. Now, it appears the Pentagon isn't ready for latte.

"They think its a fad or something," said Steve Tupper, who as one of the owners of Olympic Espresso has spent months trying to persuade the Defense Department that the 20,000 people who work in the Pentagon might be ready to trade in their daily cup of Joe for a latte, espresso or cappuccino.

Along with more than 30 other firms, Olympic Espresso has sought a concession contract to put a cart or kiosk or even an actual gourmet coffee store in the Pentagon's busy shopping mall. Mr. Tupper has even enlisted the aid of Rep. Norman D. Dicks, D-Wash.

Their efforts, so far, have been unsuccessful.

"People don't sip coffee here," said Andrew Jones, executive secretary of the Defense Department's concessions committee. "Why should they spend $1.25 [for latte] when they can get a full-sized cup for 40 cents?"

But Mr. Tupper insists that the military can learn to appreciate something new. "I'm pretty sure this is the approach they took when yogurt came out," he said.

Mr. Tupper said he has no doubt that a coffee outlet in the Pentagon -- where 25 tons of coffee a year are bought for cafeterias and snack bars -- would do well and scoffs at suggestions that military personnel may not be sophisticated enough.

"We are working on it," said George Behan, Mr. Dicks' press secretary. "There seems to be a strong inclination at the Pentagon to uphold the military's much-deserved reputation for serving the world's worst coffee."

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