Lovers of the largest coffee chain in the world could find their favorite local shop may soon be on the chopping block.
On July 13, a video taken during a Starbucks internal meeting was posted to Twitter by Seattle radio host Ari Hoffman. In the clip, interim CEO Howard Schultz spoke on news of 16 Starbucks stores which are set to close due to safety concerns, which was first reported in the Wall Street Journal.
“We are beginning to close stores that are not unprofitable,” said Howard Schultz in the video, which has more than 310,000 views on Twitter.
“Starbucks is a window into America. We have stores in every community and we are facing things in which the stores were not built for,” Shultz said. “We’re listening to our people and we’re closing stores and this is just the beginning. There are going to be many more.”
As a Starbucks spokesperson confirmed to TODAY Food on July 13, the coffee chain will be closing 16 of its stores by July 31, citing safety concerns reported by employees. These concerns were mirrored in an open letter written by senior vice presidents of Starbucks’s U.S. operations Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson to employees concerned with their own safety while on the job.
“You’re also seeing firsthand the challenges facing our communities — personal safety, racism, lack of access to healthcare, a growing mental health crisis, rising drug use, and more,” reads the open letter on Starbucks’s website. “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.”
According to the letter, Starbucks is also attempting to improve safety in its stores by giving employees de-escalation training, active shooter training, mental health trainings and more.
Schultz said that Starbucks is closing the stores and potentially others in the future as a result of sessions that he had with employees, which Starbucks refers to internally as “retail partners.” He also said that he’s heard from employees who shared the issues they’ve come to experience in Starbucks’ bathrooms, and additionally other issues involving mental illness, homelessness and crime occurring in various Starbucks locations around the country.
“In my view, at the local state and federal level, these governments across the country and leaders, mayors, governors and city councils abdicated their responsibility in fighting crime and addressing mental Health,” Schultz said in a second leaked video. He added that the company is looking to update the way stores operate to meet the needs of customers in an environment in which he says customer behavior is changing.
TODAY reached out to Starbucks for comment, and a spokesperson said there were no additional closures to announce at this time.