Starbucks says these LA stores are too dangerous to operate

Anna Gonzalez grabs coffee at Starbucks on 2nd Street in downtown Los Angeles across from her desk most workdays, a favorite part of her morning routine.

She admits the store is two blocks from the Los Angeles Police Department The head office and town hall are surrounded by a growing homeless population and struggle with petty crime. But she and other customers were disappointed and mildly alarmed to learn it was one of six locations in the Los Angeles area and 10 locations in other major cities that the coffee giant said this week to close due to security concerns.

“Everyone in there is really nice, but it’s a little risky here,” said Gonzalez, leaving the downtown store Wednesday morning with her iced vanilla latte. “It will only get worse without the company.”

As Starbucks has proliferated over the past few decades, stores have become more than just a place for a quick caffeine fix in many neighborhoods. Their iconic forest green mermaid logo is a welcome sign for people of all demographics and income brackets – a place for business meetings, remote workers, first dates or a free cup of water. and a visit to the bathroom for those in need – and some worry the closing signal poses greater challenges for the region.

Closing your favorite Starbucks is bad enough. But many customers at the six sites targeted for closure said it was unfair to conclude the stores were “unsafe to keep operating”, as Starbucks put it.

“I’m upset. I can’t have coffee! Liz Venz said outside the Starbucks on Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street about to close. “You can’t walk to work, you can’t live comfortably and nothing is being done about it…. It’s not a good neighborhood anymore.

Los Angeles area stores scheduled to close are at:

  • Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street
  • Santa Monica Boulevard and Westmount Drive in West Hollywood
  • 1st and Los Angeles Streets (inside the DoubleTree Hotel)
  • Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue
  • Ocean Front Walk and Moss Avenue in Santa Monica
  • 2nd and San Pedro Streets

While many Starbucks customers, like Venz, said they understood the safety issues given the worsening homelessness crisis and recent rise in crime, some questioned the decision — and its reasoning.

City worker Chris Muncey, who was having coffee on Wednesday at 1st and Los Angeles streets in downtown Los Angeles, which is also slated for closure, said security concerns were an “acceptable excuse” if there really were financial or other reasons for Starbucks to close. .

In a statement from Starbucks, officials referenced drug use and threatening behavior as reasons for the closures, but weren’t more specific. They plan to reopen in “new places with safer conditions”. Starbucks plans to transfer employees to other locations, according to The Associated Press.

However, other Starbucks stores are no more than half a mile from each outpost slated for closure. In some cases, nearby stores that will remain open are only a block away, apparently affected by the same security situations.

An employee who worked at the two downtown establishments due to close called the closures baffling despite the incidents she experienced.

“The [are] countless times I was yelled at, cursed at, thrown at and harassed,” said the employee, who requested anonymity because staff were instructed not to speak to reporters.

During a meeting, a person entered the store asking for food and coffee. Staff told him to get in the queue, but he refused and “kept screaming,” she said.

“He finally just asked for hot water and when we did – as we give them away for free – he threw the cup of hot water at the partner who was at [the] sign up,” she said in an email to The Times. The employee suffered burns to the chest and hands.

Most of the time outside security is “not much help”, while the police “more than half the time didn’t even show up”, she said.

Managers filled out internal incident reports and told the employee that the company “maybe hire a [store] security guard.”

But that didn’t happen, she said.

“[After] all these years of dealing with dangerous situations… the solution offered by Starbucks is to close the stores,” she said, adding that employees had only two options: transfer or resign without compensation. departure.

None of the Los Angeles stores that will be closing had formed unions, but two of the Seattle stores set to close had voted to unionize and one of the Portland, Oregon locations had called for a vote union, according to a statement from Starbucks Workers. United.

“Every decision Starbucks makes must be viewed through the lens of the company’s unprecedented and vocal anti-union campaign,” the organization said in a statement. “It is simply not credible for the company to claim that this was not a response to the growing labor movement that is spreading across the country.”

The company has fought contentious battles over unionization in its stores and has been repeatedly accused of illegally firing union organizers during a recent wave of union campaigns across the country. Starbucks officials, however, said the recent closings were unrelated to organizing efforts, calling the move “part of our business operations.”

In West Hollywood, locals call the store that sits along Santa Monica Boulevard the “Big Gay Starbucks.” Over the years it had become a popular gathering place for locals shopping at nearby Trader Joe’s or coming out of 24-Hour Fitness.

“It’s definitely a shock to the community,” West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Shyne said.

City officials recently heard from Starbucks officials talking about safety issues, she said, such as calls about customers being abusive to workers or passengers inside and outside the store. , prompting calls to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Workers were concerned about the time it sometimes took deputies to respond, Shyne said, and had requested additional patrols from Block by Block Ambassadors – a city-contracted company that patrols the commercial area and reports crimes. to law enforcement.

“We have seen an increase in reports of aggressive behavior in the area, and we are working with our community safety partners to respond,” West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister said in an email.

According to crimemapping.com, which lists crime reports from police and sheriff’s departments, the area around the West Hollywood store has received 18 calls in the past seven months, including six for assault.

Michael Sochirca, who works in private building security on 2nd and San Pedro streets in Little Tokyo, including the closing Starbucks, said he often had to kick people out of the cafe.

“It’s always the same – with Starbucks it’s almost a daily thing,” Sochirca said. “A few things happened there. … Theft and roaming and stuff like that, but as far as I know, no one was ever hurt in that.

He referred to a recent incident in which the Starbucks was evacuated after a man outside had a gun, but said police responded and the store was not directly hit. The LAPD was unable to immediately confirm the incident or provide more detailed crime data.

According to crime mapping software, the area around this store and the other downtown Starbucks that will be closing — which are on opposite corners of the same block between 1st and 2nd Streets not far from LAPD headquarters – has seen 77 calls to the police since January. Most involved theft and other property crimes, but 12 involved assault.

Rising crime rates across the country, particularly violent crime in major cities, have become a hot political issue, and experts have been quick to point to store closures as an indictment Democratic politicians in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle and Washington, D.C., where the closures were announced.

Steve Hilton of the right-wing Daily Caller blamed “woke” policies or progressive criminal justice reforms, and on Fox News’ morning show “Outnumbered” the former White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, centered the blame on Democratic leaders.

“Until you solve the problem here with the elected officials who come from the left and blue states, you are not going to solve the problems on the streets, and the businesses leave,” she said Wednesday during of a segment on the Cafes.

Meister said West Hollywood officials are looking for ways to address some of the security issues.

“We have seen an increase in reports of aggressive behavior in the region, and we are working with our community partners to respond to this,” she said. “This trend is not limited to West Hollywood; it’s all over the region.

Anthony Flores, a city worker who bought a matcha latte at the downtown Starbucks closest to City Hall, said it was too bad the store was closing.

“I personally haven’t seen that,” said Flores, 31, referring to security concerns. “It’s downtown, so it kind of comes with the territory, if there’s such a thing.”

Theft and other property crimes have also surrounded other targeted cafes over the past year, according to crime data. In Hollywood and Vine, the tourist area surrounding the Starbucks has received 101 calls for service since January, including 14 for assault.

Chris Dembo, 19, often visits this Starbucks to see friends who work there. They recently told her that difficult customers, some mentally unstable, had made running the store difficult.

“They understand it has to be done,” Dembo said. He declined to connect The Times with the employees he was referring to.

A woman visiting Hollywood from Florida noticed the TV cameras lined up along the Walk of Fame on Wednesday and stopped to ask what had happened, fearing she had missed something dangerous.

But after discovering the problem was a Starbucks that was soon to be closed, she laughed, then led her three children down the busy street to continue their visit.

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