Starbucks to close 16 stores, 6 in Los Angeles over ‘safety issues’

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Starbucks is shutting down over a dozen U.S. locations  – six of them in Los Angeles County – by the end of July due to a spike in crime and drug use among customers and nonpaying patrons which have made employees uneasy.

The coffee giant is closing six stores in the metro areas of its hometown of Seattle, six in Los Angeles, two in Portland, Oregon and one each in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. 

Starbucks said employees at those stores will be given the opportunity to transfer to other stores.

Starbucks logo outside store

The “Siren” logo hangs outside a Starbucks Coffee shop, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Boston.  (AP Photo/Charles Krupa / AP Newsroom)

Starbucks’ senior vice presidents of operations Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson said the company’s stores aren’t immune from problems like rising drug use and a growing mental health crisis.

“We know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores too. We read every incident report you file — it’s a lot,” Stroud and Nelson wrote.

Starbucks said Tuesday the closures are part of a larger effort to respond to staff concerns and make sure stores are safe and welcoming.

In a July 11 letter to employees, Starbucks’ announced the closure of the stores. 

“After careful consideration, we are closing some stores in locations that have experienced a high volume of challenging incidents that make it unsafe to continue to operate, to open new locations with safer conditions,” a Starbucks spokesperson told Business Insider.

Protesters break Starbucks' glass

A cinder block is framed by a broken window in a downtown Philadelphia Starbucks store. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Starbucks, which has been known for opening its bathrooms to everyone, whether they are paying customers or not, is rethinking its policy due to safety concerns. 

Starbucks said it is willing to make adjustments to ensure store safety, including modifying operating hours and moving furniture — or removing it — in order to give employees a clearer view of the store. The company said it’s testing alarm systems and sensors to alert employees if someone is in a restroom.

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In 2018, Starbucks issued a policy allowing anyone to use its restroom. The policy was created after two Black men, who were waiting for a business meeting, were denied the use of the Starbucks’ restrooms, asked to leave, and later arrested. They later reached a settlement with Starbucks. 

Starbucks also noted an effort — now in eight cities — called Outreach Worker, which connects store employees to nonprofit groups who can help with patrons who are chronically homeless, mentally ill or abusing drugs.

Over the last two years, large cities have seen a spike in violent crime and theft. 

Violent crimes in Seattle have shot up by 23% in 2022, with 1,815 incidents recorded as of April 30, compared to 1,474 recorded during the same timeframe last year.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, 36 homicides were reported in April 2022, compared to 21 from 2021 and 24 in 2020.

The nation’s capital has seen a 25% increase in total violent crime and 7% increase in property crime in 2022. 

Starbucks’ employees are upset with the closures saying they weren’t consulted or given any options.

“We think it is not fair that we were not allowed to be a part of this decision about our working conditions, nor for Starbucks to claim they could not provide a safe experience for our workplace,” said Mari Cosgrove, an employee at one of the Seattle stores that is closing.

Starbucks workers union

Starbucks employees and supporters react as votes are read during a union-election watch party on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex, File / AP Images)

The closures took on heightened significance because of an ongoing unionization effort at Starbucks’ U.S. stores. Out of the 9,000 stores Starbucks had in June, more than 189 U.S. Starbucks stores have voted to unionize since late last year, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Starbucks opposes the unionization effort.

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Two of the Seattle stores that are closing have voted to unionize, while one of the Portland stores has petitioned to hold a union vote. Last month, Starbucks also closed a unionized store in Ithaca, New York, because of operational problems, including an overflowing grease trap.

Starbucks Workers United, the labor group organizing the effort, said it intends to file unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks on behalf of the two unionized stores that are closing in Seattle.

But Starbucks insisted the closures weren’t related to the unionization drive.

“Opening and closing stores is part of our business operations,” a spokesperson for the company said. “This is really rooted in safe and welcoming stores.”

U.S. labor law doesn’t prevent Starbucks from closing its stores for business reasons. But it can’t close a store — whether it’s unionized or not — in retaliation against labor organizers.

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A list of the Starbucks’ stores closing across the U.S.: 

California:

  • Santa Monica & Westmount, West Hollywood, California
  • Hollywood & Western, Los Angeles, California
  • 1st & Los Angeles (Doubletree), Los Angeles, California
  • Hollywood & Vine, Hollywood, California
  • Ocean Front Walk & Moss, Santa Monica, California
  • 2nd & San Pedro, Los Angeles, California

Pennsylvania: 

10th & Chestnut, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Oregon: 

  • 4th & Morrison, Portland, Oregon
  • Gateway, Portland, Oregon

Washington D.C.: 

  • Union Station Train Concourse, Washington, DC

Washington:

  • 23rd & Jackson, Seattle, Washington
  • Roosevelt Square, Seattle, Washington
  • E. Olive Way, Seattle, Washington
  • 505 Union Stn, Seattle, Washington
  • Westlake Center, Seattle, Washington
  • Hwy 99 & Airport Rd, Everett, Washington

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