Starbucks announced Monday it is closing 16 stores across the country, citing crime and safety concerns at the locations, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The company is shuttering locations in Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Each city is governed by Democratic mayors and is undergoing a spike in crime. In a message to employees, Starbucks executives said the company has been getting “a lot” of incident reports of criminal activity, including drug use in stores. “We cannot serve as partners if we don’t first feel safe at work,” they said.
Starbucks, which has lost roughly a third of its value over the past year, also announced it will give managers more leeway with store policy to deter criminals. Managers will be able to close bathrooms to deter drug use and limit customer seating. Starbucks said it will also offer baristas additional training in deescalating conflicts.
Starbucks’s move comes two years after the company downplayed violence amid rioting following the murder of George Floyd. In May 2020, Starbucks released a public statement praising racial justice activists and quoting Martin Luther King Jr.’s remark that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” Kevin Johnson, the company’s CEO, stressed the importance of the “courageous conversations” going on at the time.
Starbucks has worked to quash unionization efforts across the country, and two of the Seattle locations the company is closing are unionized. A Starbucks union leader when interviewed by the Journal said the company should have involved employees in the decision to close the stores.