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Starbucks to close five Seattle stores over safety concerns

July 11, 2022 Updated Mon., July 11, 2022 at 5:02 p.m.

By Renata Geraldo Seattle Times

Starbucks will close five Seattle stores and one in Everett with high rates of crime as part of a broad initiative to boost security at the cafes, the company announced Monday.

The closed stores include five in Seattle – stores on Capitol Hill, Ravenna, Pike/Pine, Union Station and Westlake Center – and one in Everett. In total, 17 U.S. stores will close July 31. The stores were picked based on their level of crime and whether attempts to lower those the crime rates were successful, a company spokesperson said.

Going forward, store managers will also be allowed to choose whether bathrooms are open to the public, and future stores will be redesigned to be safer, the company said Monday.

Those who work at the stores that are permanently closing can choose to be reassigned to neighboring stores, the company said.

The stores at Union Station and Pike are unionized, and partners who relocate to other stores will continue to receive union representation if their new store is also unionized.

The changes come in response to challenges related to “personal safety, racism, lack of access to healthcare, a growing mental health crisis, rising drug use and more” that play out at Starbucks stores, according to a memo by senior vice presidents of U.S. operations Denise Nielsen and Debbie Stroud sent to employees on Monday.

Interim CEO Howard Schultz, who has returned for a third stint in the chief executive role, said during a New York Times panel last month that Starbucks was considering closing public bathrooms in response to a security crisis. Instead of a companywide policy, individual store managers will be able to decide if bathrooms will close or remain open, the company said Monday.

Stores will also be rearranged to be safer. New front-line workers will also receive additional training on how to deal with situations like active shooter scenarios and conflict de-escalation, according to Starbucks.

Workers will also receive more mental health benefits to deal with difficult safety situations, the company also said.

Redesigning will include “adjusting store formats, furniture layouts, hours of operation, staffing, or testing store-specific solutions,” according to the memo. Those fixes could include restroom occupancy sensors and new alarm systems,” as well as passes for workers to use Lyft to get to work and partnering with local outreach workers, according to the memo.

The changes align with five goals also announced Monday by Schultz aimed to reinvent the Starbucks experience.

“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,” Schultz wrote in a letter to employees.

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