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Starbucks to close 16 locations citing personal safety concerns

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Starbucks is planning to close 16 locations across various cities, citing safety concerns.

“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,” a spokesperson told CNN Business in an email.

The stores are in Seattle; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Washington, DC, and Portland, Oregon. They will be closed by the end of July.

According to CNN, during its most recent fiscal year, Starbucks closed 424 US company-operated stores, or about 5% of its total, while opening 449 new locations.

The decision comes as Starbucks works to change the company culture under interim CEO Howard Schultz — and as employees across the country vote to unionize.

In a Monday letter to employees, Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, both senior vice presidents of US operations, discussed safety in Starbucks stores.

Employees are “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,” they wrote, adding that “with stores in thousands of communities across the country, we know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores too.”

Stroud and Nelson said they “read every incident report you file,” adding, “it’s a lot.”

To make workers feel safer in stores, the company is offering active shooter training and other types of trainings, they wrote.

It’s also offering mental health benefits, access to abortion care, clarity around shifts and store policies, and more, the letter stated. The company also may close restrooms to the public, overturning a 2018 policy.

In cases where it isn’t able to create a safe environment in a store, Starbucks will close it permanently, the letter said. In those instances, the company will move employees to neighboring stores.

And in June, Starbucks workers at an Ithaca, New York, store claimed their location was being shut down in retaliation for their union activism. The worker committee said at the time that it was filing an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that Starbucks was making a “clear attempt to scare workers across the country.”

Regarding that store closure, a company spokesperson said at the time that Starbucks opens and closes stores as part of its regular operations, without offering specific reasons.

“Our local, regional and national leaders have been working with humility, deep care and urgency to create the kind of store environment that partners and customers expect of Starbucks,” the Starbucks spokesperson said in June. “Our goal is to ensure that every partner is supported in their individual situation and we have immediate opportunities available in the market.”

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