The Disturbing Reason Starbucks Is Closing More Than A Dozen Stores

Starbucks has come a long way since its first opening in Seattle's Pike Place Market in 1971. It's now the largest coffee company in the world, claiming a 40% share of the coffee market in the U.S., per World Coffee Portal. In the States alone, the coffee chain employs roughly 138,000 people, down drastically from around 346,000 pre-pandemic, per Macrotrends.

Employees have mixed perspectives about what it's really like to work at Starbucks. A former worker at the coffee chain from Livermore, California, posted on Indeed, "What a remarkable company to work for. They covered my health insurance AND paid for my college tuition at ASU. They take care of their baristas, truly." Another former employee from Dallas said, "It was quite stressful most of the time, but Starbucks has some great benefits. Getting free college was worth my time there."

Starbucks recently announced a $1 billion investment in its stores for the current fiscal year, which CEO Howard Schultz said would transform "the Starbucks customer and partner experiences," in part by "reducing strain on" employees. Despite the initiatives, the company will close 16 locations before August due to employees' "safety concerns," reports The Wall Street Journal.

Employees reported disturbing incidents taking place in Starbucks bathrooms

This week, Starbucks' U.S. operations leads Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson sent a message to employees saying that they had received "a lot" of alarming incident reports from employees of the soon-to-close Starbucks stores, according to The Wall Street Journal. "We cannot serve as partners if we don't first feel safe at work," they said. Employees had filed reports of drug use by customers and non-customers in store bathrooms, spurring the company to allow workers to deny access to bathrooms or otherwise "reduce operations" when concerned about their safety.

The shuttered stores include six locations in both Seattle and Los Angeles; two in Portland, Oregon; and one each in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. The closures come on the heels of recent remarks made by CEO Howard Schultz about safety. Schultz shared with The New York Times that the chain might "have to harden" its stores by ending its policy allowing anyone, including non-customers, to use Starbucks bathrooms and store spaces. "We have to provide a safe environment for our people and our customers," he said at The Times' DealBook D.C. policy forum. "The mental health crisis in the country is severe, acute and getting worse."

According to the New York Post, some pro-union advocates have suggested that the closures were a deliberate attempt to prevent organized labor. However, Starbucks said it intends to relocate employees to other locations once the closures occur.