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‘Safety concerns’ shutter 20 Starbucks locations, including stores trying to unionize

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(NEXSTAR) – Starbucks has closed roughly two dozen locations throughout the country – but primarily on the West Coast – since this summer, saying safety concerns have made “providing a safe and welcoming and kind environment” challenging.

In July, vice presidents of US operations Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson wrote in a letter to employees emphasizing the importance of store safety.

“You’re … seeing firsthand the challenges facing our communities – personal safety, racism, lack of access to healthcare, a growing mental health crisis, rising drug use, and more. With stores in thousands of communities across the country, we know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores too. We read every incident report you file – it’s a lot,” they wrote.

Stroud and Nelson noted that moving forward, stores may be closed permanently if safety is found to be “no longer possible.”

A Starbucks spokesperson later confirmed to Nexstar that 16 locations would close by the end of July, including six in Los Angeles, five in Seattle, two in Portland, and one each in Philadelphia; the District of Columbia; and Everett, Washington.

Since then, additional Starbucks stores have closed throughout the country, all citing safety concerns.

A third location in Portland is set to close Thursday. A nearby business owner told Nexstar’s KOIN that homelessness, drugs, and violence have impacted the neighborhood recently.

In early October, Starbucks closed its Canal Street location in New Orleans, again citing safety concerns and a rising level of threat reported by employees.

A company spokesperson told Nexstar’s WSYR on Wednesday that Starbucks will close its store in downtown Syracuse soon due to unspecified safety concerns.

Employees at a Kansas City location were told in August that their store was closing due to safety concerns, according to Nexstar’s WDAF. Some thought its recent effort to unionize, which failed, was also to blame.

A location in downtown Indianapolis is set to close before the end of the month. Commander Phil Burton with the Indianapolis Metro Police Department’s Downtown District told Nexstar’s WXIN that Starbucks never shared any safety concerns with authorities.

Union leaders in Colorado Springs told Nexstar’s KREX they requested a bargaining meeting with Starbucks for Oct. 24, only to have the company announce it would instead be closing the location Oct. 23 over health and safety concerns. A shift supervisor said they had asked for safety measures to be put in place before but never received any support.

Other closures include locations in Spokane and Chicago (which was also scheduled to start bargaining for their first union contract, a local news outlet reports), meaning at least 24 Starbucks stores have closed or will close due to “safety concerns” before the end of the year.

Nexstar reached out to Starbucks multiple times for additional information regarding stores that have been closed, as well as the policies Stroud and Nelson said would be enacted in their July letter.

Those policies included training on de-escalating situations, preparing for an active shooter, mental health first aid trainings, adjusting stores and designing them for safety, and providing clear policies and procedures.

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