Starbucks will close 16 U.S. stores, mostly on the West Coast, by the end of July because of safety concerns, according to the company. Most of the stores set to close are in the Los Angeles and Seattle metro areas.
“We’ve had to make the difficult decision to close some locations that have a particularly high volume of challenging incidents that make it unsafe for us to operate,” a Starbucks spokesperson told CNBC.
Concern about store safety was central to a letter to employees published Monday from Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, two senior vice presidents of U.S. operations at the coffee chain. The letter cites several societal safety concerns, including increased violence and drug use in the area of the stores.
“We know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores too. We read every incident report you file — it’s a lot,” the letter said. “Simply put, we cannot serve as partners if we don’t first feel safe at work.”
The closures come at a unique time for Starbucks as more stores vote to unionize: more than 100 of the company’s 9,000 U.S. stores since workers at a store in Buffalo, New York, became the first to join a union at the end of 2021.