Starbucks will be closing 16 of its stores by July 31, citing safety concerns reported by employees, a Starbucks spokesperson confirmed to TODAY Food.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that the coffee giant will permanently close stores in cities across the country after workers reported drug-related and other safety incidents. These reports included incidents that involved customers or members of the public, the company said.
The stores included in the shutdown are six each in the Seattle and Los Angeles areas, two in Portland and one each in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. (Scroll down for the full list.) The spokesperson said two of the stores in Seattle were stores where employees were unionizing, but that the company "take(s) the same focus on safety at stores" regardless of their unionization status.
These incidents were reported during outreach sessions earlier this year, the spokesperson said. The decision reflects a trend of Starbucks working to change the company culture as employees unionize, with the return of interim CEO Howard Schultz, who has been criticized for his anti-union stance.
"This really began several months ago, when Howard Schultz returned as CEO," the spokesperson said. "We began to have conversations with partners and local leaders across the country about how to improve partner experience and what it was like to work in stores and then how to empower them to better improve the customer experience."
In a Monday letter to employees penned by senior vice presidents of U.S. Operations Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, the pair wrote that they "read every incident report (employees) file — it's a lot."
"We want you to know that creating a safe, welcoming, and kind third place is our top priority," the letter reads. "Because simply put, we cannot serve as partners if we don’t first feel safe at work."
The message also included action items such as "robust" safety trainings — including active shooter trainings — adjusting store layouts or hours of operation for safety reasons and putting systems in place to support employees' mental health, among others. The company goes on to say it will transfer employees from closed stores to other locations.
The letter also read that stores have the authority to close restrooms to the public if they deem it necessary, or even close a store entirely if their safety is at risk.
In addition to Stroud and Nelson's letter, Schultz wrote a letter to employees on Monday, outlining a five-step "Reinvention" plan for the company moving forward.
"Our partners’ own stories, experiences and ideas as shared through collaboration sessions, surveys, open forums and direct conversations with their leaders have inspired a set of principles for a new partnership at Starbucks," Schultz wrote.
According to CNN, Starbucks closed 424 U.S. stores and opened 449 new locations in its most recent fiscal year. Stroud and Nelson wrote that the company will continue to provide updates as it embarks on changing the culture at Starbucks.
The spokesperson told TODAY that more than 100 stores will remain open in Seattle, for example, and they "certainly look forward to welcoming our customers" at those stores while working toward change for their employees.
"We remain committed to the community, and that will include investments in innovative solutions like the outreach worker program," said the spokesperson.
Here's the full list of Starbucks stores closing, per Insider:
- Santa Monica & Westmount, West Hollywood, California
- Hollywood & Western, Los Angeles, California
- 1st & Los Angeles (Doubletree), Los Angeles, California
- Hollywood & Vine, Hollywood, California
- Ocean Front Walk & Moss, Santa Monica, California
- 2nd & San Pedro, Los Angeles, California
- 10th & Chestnut, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- 4th & Morrison, Portland, Oregon
- Gateway, Portland, Oregon
- 23rd & Jackson, Seattle, Washington
- Roosevelt Square, Seattle, Washington
- E. Olive Way, Seattle, Washington
- 505 Union Station, Seattle, Washington
- Westlake Center, Seattle, Washington
- Hwy 99 & Airport Rd, Everett, Washington
- Union Station Train Concourse, Washington, D.C.