The coffee chain announced on Monday that it’s closing at least 16 stores due to reports of drug use and safety concerns affecting its employees at six stores each in Seattle and Los Angeles, and two in Portland.
Another store in Washington D.C and one in Philadelphia will be shut at the end of the month, the Wall Street Journal reported.
In a note to employees, which was acquired by the publication, Starbucks stated it received complaints about drug use by customers at some of their outlets.
“We read every incident report you file—it’s a lot,” Starbucks operations leaders Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson said in an employee memo. “We cannot serve as partners if we don’t first feel safe at work.”
Partners is the term that Starbucks calls its workers.
In addition to shutting down the stores, Starbucks said it is giving its store managers the latitude to close restrooms and limit them to customers or employees. Additionally, store managers will also be given the freedom to limit seating or reduce operations in response to safety concerns, which are part of a new package of policies aimed at addressing workers' issues, including their safety at the workplace.
The company told the Wall Street Journal that managers will be able to continue to change store layouts if needed, including limiting seating locations. It is also planning to provide guidance to baristas on how to deal with active shooter scenarios and provide them with training for conflict de-escalation.
The push to train and equip employees with the means to deal with potentially hazardous situations comes amid a rise in violent crime across American cities, which have surged following the 2020 George Floyd riots.
The response to the riots from politicians and lawmakers across U.S. cities was to defund the police, enact bail reform policies, and increase the tolerance for so-called non-violent crimes such as drug abuse, theft, and loitering.
Police forces are effectively hamstrung in their ability to enforce the law, especially as anti-police sentiment continues to grow with the rise of anti-police activism on social media and their sway on public opinion.