Starbucks said Tuesday that it will be shutting down 16 locations in the U.S. over safety concerns, including increased crime rates and repeated drug use by customers and members of the public.
Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world. As of 2020, the company had a total of 32,660 stores internationally.
The company is closing six stores in Los Angeles, six in Seattle, two in Portland, Oregon and one each in Philadelphia and Washington. Employees at those stores will be given the option to transfer to other locations. Starbucks announced the closures in response to complaints from staff.
“We know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores too. We read every incident report you file — it’s a lot,” Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, Starbucks’ senior vice presidents of operations, wrote in a letter.
The closures come amid ongoing unionization efforts at many of Starbucks’ stores. Since last year, over 189 U.S. Starbucks stores voted to unionize, ABC News reports, citing the National Labor Relations Board.
Because two of the Seattle stores that are closing have voted to unionize, Starbucks Workers United filed a suit against the company on behalf of the two stores, accusing the company of unfair labor practices.
A Starbucks spokesperson said that the closures were completely unrelated to the unionization. “Opening and closing stores is part of our business operations,” the spokesperson said. “This is really rooted in safe and welcoming stores.”
In order to ensure the safety of employees, Starbucks said it will make any necessary changes to the store, including changing operating hours and moving (or removing) furniture in order to give employees a clearer view of the store. The company also proposed using an alarm system and sensors to alert employees if someone is in a restroom. Should these proposals not help, the company said that restrooms at some stores may have to be closed.
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