It’s a rather snarky press release, but we confess to being amused by it: Coffee Klatch Roasting Celebrates Starbucks Store Closures With Free Coffee for Everyone.

These days, Howard Schultz’s return to the CEO post at Starbucks has resembled nothing short of a panicked man caught on a runaway bulldozer, pulling every lever and knob he can find to steer the thing before it careens off a cliff. Last week, Starbucks announced that they were going to temporarily close some 7,100 cafés nationwide for three hours — to retrain some 135,000 in-store employees and people who oversee the stores.

Hopefully it’s to teach them what a proper espresso should really taste like. However, as San Dimas’ Coffee Klatch owner, Mike Perry, pointed out in his press release, “I’m not sure why it’s going to take them 3 hours to learn how to press a button.” Touché. We first met Mike at the 2006 Western Regional Barista Competition, and he knows good coffee. (His daughter, Heather, won that competition as well as last year’s U.S. Barista Championship.)

Hitting a company when it’s down smacks of a little schadenfreude, no matter how big the company. Starbucks did popularize better coffee in this country more than anyone else, even if today they are a lot like Mikhael Gorbachev‘s relevance to Russian governance after perestroika. But if Howard Schultz were to take our advice for improving the espresso standards at Starbucks, and if he were truly serious about his commitment to quality, we would only close about 6,900 of those 7,100 cafés — but never reopen them.

Mike Perry knows when to call out button-pushers for what they are

UPDATE: Feb. 20, 2008
Not to be outdone, Seattle’s Caffé Vita (one of the famous ‘V’s of great Seattle espresso) is offering a similar promotion, according to a blog on today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Feb. 26: First No Coffee, Now Free Coffee.

UPDATE: Feb. 21, 2008
One successful press release can sometimes lead to another: Coffee Klatch Roasting Anti-Starbucks Promotion Sparks Nationwide Free Indie Coffee Uprising.