by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Starbucks plans to permanently close 16 locations in five liberal U.S. cities by the end of the month over safety concerns, including customers and other members of the public using drugs in the stores.
The company plans to close six stores in Seattle, six stores in Los Angeles, two in Portland and one location each in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., according to the Wall Street Journal.
“After careful consideration, we are closing some stores in locations that have experienced a high volume of challenging incidents that make it unsafe to continue to operate, to open new locations with safer conditions,” a Starbucks spokesperson told Business Insider.
The company said it would offer guidance to baristas in how to handle active shooter scenarios and conflict deescalation at work, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Starbucks will also give store managers the authority to close bathrooms, limit seating or reduce operations to manage safety concerns.
The closures come one month after CEO Howard Schultz said the company was weighing an end to its “open bathroom policy,” which allows non-customers to use store bathrooms, because of safety concerns, including a nationwide “mental health” problem.
“There is an issue of, just, safety in our stores, in terms of people coming in who use our stores as a public bathroom,” Schultz said in early June. “We have to provide a safe environment for our people and our customers. The mental health crisis in the country is severe, acute and getting worse.”
“We have to harden our stores and provide safety for our people,” Schultz added. “I don’t know if we can keep our bathrooms open.
Meanwhile, 7-Eleven corporate headquarters encouraged local franchisees in Los Angeles to temporarily close earlier this week after five armed robberies occurred at 7-Eleven stores in the area between Sunday night and Monday morning. The robberies left two people dead.