Starbucks is permanently closing 16 store locations across America as store managers continue to report their teams feeling unsafe due to rising crime in some areas.
Of the 16 new shutdowns, 6 are in Seattle, 6 in the L.A. area, 2 in Portland, 1 in Philadelphia, and 1 in DC, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Operations will cease after July 31, 2022 and two of the stores shuttering in Seattle just voted to unionize.
Thefts, violence, and drug use around each location has led to managers complaining up the chain that employees and customers do not feel safe, especially as assaults and thefts rise in these areas.
The initial response from corporate was allowing store managers discretion to not allow free access to store bathrooms, and last month, interim CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz said they were evaluating their “open bathroom” policy due to public safety.
“We have to provide a safe environment for our people and our customers,” he told The Seattle Times. “The mental health crisis in the country is severe, acute and getting worse.”
Corporate has also allowed managers in these areas to rearrange seating and adjust operating hours to improve employee safety. At least they’re not completely blaming everything on open bathrooms.
On Monday, SVPs of US Operations at Starbucks, Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson said in a letter to employees about safety that more safety trainings would become available in August, free counselors would visit stores following a critical incident (and paid sick time would be granted), they affirmed the company’s commitment to accountability, and clarified policies and procedures.
They said in the letter, “We hear the challenges facing you in stores, and we all have a lot more to still figure out – but we know we’ll get there because YOU have shown us, time and again, that our stores can be a place of hope, optimism and community for all.”
It remains unseen whether or not any of the other 9,000+ locations in North America will also shut down amidst the rising crime rates in major cities.