Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 26° Partly Cloudy
News >  Business

Starbucks to close another Seattle store; workers skeptical of safety claims

Nov. 22, 2022 Updated Tue., Nov. 22, 2022 at 9:17 p.m.

Pedestrians walk past a Starbucks store Tuesday at 101 Broadway E. and Denny Way in Seattle. Starbucks announced it will close the store Dec. 11, citing safety concerns and security incidents. The Starbucks Workers Union says it an attempt to slow unionization campaigns.  (Karen Ducey/Seattle Times)
Pedestrians walk past a Starbucks store Tuesday at 101 Broadway E. and Denny Way in Seattle. Starbucks announced it will close the store Dec. 11, citing safety concerns and security incidents. The Starbucks Workers Union says it an attempt to slow unionization campaigns. (Karen Ducey/Seattle Times)
By Renata Geraldo Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Starbucks will close its Seattle store at Broadway East and Denny Way next month, the company told workers Monday night. The closure of the Capitol Hill store will take effect Dec. 11, according to the company.

Seattle-based Starbucks said its attempts to address safety concerns at the location were not effective. Incidents included theft, vandalism, property damage, drug use, threats of physical violence, verbal harassment and assault, according to Andrew Trull, a Starbucks spokesperson.

“Unfortunately, despite several mitigating efforts, safety and security incidents at our Broadway and Denny store have continued to escalate,” Trull said.

In July, Starbucks announced the closure of five stores in Seattle and 16 nationwide, citing safety concerns. One of the Seattle stores was also on Capitol Hill, on Olive Way. The Starbucks Workers Union countered the company’s claim, saying it is a tactic to slow down unionization campaigns.

There were 97 incidents at that Broadway and Denny Starbucks location between Jan. 1, 2020, and July 10, 2022, according to the Seattle Police Department. By comparison, there were 68 incidents at the Union Square Starbucks and 157 at the Central District store. Both closed in the summer.

In a statement, the union representing Starbucks workers, Starbucks Workers United, said the closure of the store is a form of retaliation. The union noted that Dec. 9, just before the store will close, marks the anniversary of the first union being formed in Buffalo, New York.

“The Broadway and Denny location was the first store to unionize in Seattle, and one of the first locations to organize in the country,” a union spokesperson said.

Workers at Broadway and Denny filed a union petition in December, and votes were certified in March.

Rachel Ybarra, a barista at the store for three years, said they saw other baristas and customers being assaulted and knew of co-workers who received death threats.

Workers asked Starbucks managers for security guards and social workers. Help never came, Ybarra said.

“There’s definitely a safety issue at the store,” Ybarra said. “It is a completely preventable one, and it’s one that the company has never bothered to address.”

Baristas don’t have enough resources, training or time to deal with possible violent situations, Ybarra said, leaving workers and customers vulnerable.

Starbucks’ mitigation efforts included closing patios, modifying store formats and engaging with local law enforcement and the community, according to the company.

Starbucks said it reviews workers’ and customers’ experiences in its stores to evaluate safety issues, and decides to close a store if concerns persist.

The company will bargain with the union regarding how the closure will affect the workers, including possible transfers to other stores.

Ybarra said the union will not let Starbucks close the store without a fight.

Broadway and Denny store workers walked out during last Thursday’s “Red Cup Rebellion,” joining workers at more than 100 Starbucks stores who went on strike. The walkout took place the same day as an annual event in which customers can buy reusable red cups.

Ybarra said she feels connected to the store and to regular customers, including those who come into the store for water or to seek refuge from the rain, they said.

“Starbucks can be a place for the community to gather, to be safe for everyone and to provide resources,” but the company is eliminating those spaces, Ybarra said.

Starbucks changed from a “Third Place” community space to focus on convenience as part of its reinvention plan disclosed in September. In an attempt to meet market demand, the company is targeting more drive-thru-only stores while slowing the pace of cafe-only store openings. The reinvention plan will roll out next year through 2025.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.