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Starbucks Shutting, Redesigning Stores Over Crime And Safety Concerns


Starbucks is closing more than a dozen stores in cities across the country as it works to address staff complaints about crime, drug use and safety in the Seattle-based chain's cafés.

The company plans to shutter 16 stores in response to safety concerns, the Seattle Times reports. Six of the stores set to close are in Seattle, another six are in Los Angeles, two are in Portland, Oregon, and one each is closing in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., per the Wall Street Journal.

Workers have been lodging reports of people using drugs in the bathrooms, and the decision was made so employees can feel safe at work.

“Like so much of the world right now, the Starbucks business as it is built today is not set up to fully satisfy the evolving behaviors, needs and expectations of our partners or customers,” Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz said in a letter to workers on Monday. 

Last month, Schultz said he was unsure if the company could keep its open-restroom policy because of mental health issues. The company has allowed anyone to use its cafés’ bathrooms for the last four years after two Black men were arrested in a store in Philadelphia.

Now, store managers will be able to limit seating in cafés and close restrooms if they choose. Baristas will also receive more guidance on how to deal with active shooters.

Starbucks has been working on rolling out very small convenience concepts that are designed for customers who want to use the app to order and then briefly stop by a store. It has joined with Amazon to open two locations of its cashier-free concept called Starbucks Pickup with Amazon Go in New York City. 

Starbucks workers at more than 300 locations have filed to unionize, per nonprofit news publication Truthout, out of a total of more than 9,000 U.S. locations, and the National Labor Relations Board has recognized 133 store unions. Two of the Seattle stores slated to close have unionized, and a Portland location being shuttered had petitioned to unionize, the WSJ reported.

Workers at the closed stores will be relocated, per the Journal, but a spokesperson for Starbucks Workers United said employees should have been more involved in the decision to close Seattle stores.