EDITOR'S NOTE: Multimedia journalist Catalina Villegas spoke with a Starbucks customer and worker about the announced store closures. Click the arrow above to watch the video.
LOS ANGELES — Starbucks plans to close six of its Los Angeles stores due to safety concerns, the coffee chain announced Monday. As part of the Seattle-based company’s reinvention plan under recently returned chief executive Howard Schultz, stores in West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Mid-City and downtown LA will close because of increased in-store safety incidents.
“You’re 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. With stores in thousands of communities across the country, we know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores too,” Starbucks senior vice presidents Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson wrote in an open letter to employees Monday outlining a plan to make its stores more safe and welcoming.
The LA locations Starbucks plans to permanently close by July 31 are Santa Monica/Westmount and Hollywood/Vine in Hollywood, Hollywood/Western in Mid City, Ocean Front Walk/Moss in Santa Monica and 1st/Los Angeles and 2nd/San Pedro in downtown.
It is unclear how many safety incidents took place at the LA stores Starbucks is closing, but Stroud and Nelson acknowledged it was “a lot” in their letter to employees. Safety issues are prompting Starbucks to close another ten stores in Portland, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Seattle.
Starbucks’ store closure announcement was released the same day multiple 7-Eleven stores in the Southland closed overnight, following a string of six violent robberies that left two people dead and another three injured. It also comes as cities across the country face increasing crime and rising homelessness, including the violent assault in downtown LA last Friday of Olympian Kim Glass, whose face was fractured when a homeless man hurled a metal pipe at her.
“We’re living in a changing world where economic, societal and operational pressures are colliding,” Schultz said in a separate letter to employees released Monday. “We’re seeing unprecedented cultural division and economic trauma — all while navigating a pandemic, and it seems as though every day there is a new crisis to address. All of this affects our partners. All of this affects Starbucks as a company. And all of this deeply affects millions of customers who visit our stores every day.”
The impending closures are a result of meetings, surveys, forums and direct conversations Starbucks top executives have had with store employees since Schultz returned to the top spot in April. Stores that are safe and welcoming are part of a four-pillar strategy Schultz is pursuing to reinvent the global coffee chain that has more than 14,000 U.S. locations.
Starbucks plans to conduct “robust safety trainings” for employees on how to de-escalate situations, including active shooter training, mental health first aid training and upcoming store trainings in August, according to one executive’s letters.
It is also determining policies and procedures for addressing disruptive behaviors, such as when to call 911, how to engage local community resources or social services to support customers in need; designing safe and welcoming stores, including adjusted store formats, furniture layouts, restroom occupancy sensors and new alarm systems; and modifying operations such as closing a restroom, changing hours of operation or closing a store permanently if safety is no longer possible.