Starbucks announced that it is closing 16 stores across the country, citing crime and safety concerns at the locations. Most of the stores set to close are in the Los Angeles and Seattle metro areas.

The locations include six each in Seattle and Los Angeles, two in Portland, and one each in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Workers can transfer to nearby cafes.

The closures come after Starbucks says it received several complaints from employees about rampant drug use by customers in bathrooms. Affected workers in those locations will reportedly be moved to neighboring 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,” a spokesperson for Starbucks said in a statement. 

Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, senior vice presidents of U.S. operations, shared a letter with partners on July 11 providing additional details on the closures. Sadly, the growing mental health crisis, rising drug use, and racism were all cited in the letter.

The letter was published on a Starbucks website as follows:

“You’ve been open and honest with us about your experience – from what you need to feel your best at work to the many inspirational and heartfelt examples of how you are creating memorable moments for one another and our customers. You also see firsthand the challenges facing our communities – personal safety, racism, lack of access to healthcare, a growing mental health crisis, rising drug use, and more. With stores in thousands of communities across the country, we know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores too. We read every incident report you file – it’s a lot.”

“We want you to know that creating a safe, welcoming, and kind third place is our top priority. Because simply put, we cannot serve as partners if we don’t first feel safe at work. The question on our minds is: How do we continue to show up for our communities while protecting our partners?”

“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. As we move forward, we will continue learning together and share regular updates on this important work.”

Though Starbucks claims “employees’ personal safety” is the main issue behind the closures, some partners are concerned that they’re actually retaliation for unionization efforts, seeing as three of the stores were either unionized or planning to hold a vote soon.

Twitter account Starbucks Worker Solidarity interviewed an employee of one of the soon-to-close locations, who called the move “an act of union busting” and said their store environment was “quiet” and not unsafe. Starbucks has denied any correlation.

Big cities have seen an increase in violent crime and robberies in the last two years.

Seattle has seen an increase in violent and property crime since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Los Angeles has seen more people killed by firearms during the first six months of 2022 than during the same period in any of the last 15 years, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

In Washington DC there have already been 93 homicides compared to 82 in its first six months of 2021, or a jump of 13%.

Watch the video report below:

Source: AWM

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