Starbucks will close six Puget Sound-area stores where the company says crime rates have climbed recently as part of a broad initiative to boost security at the cafes.

Five stores will close in Seattle — in the Central Area, on Capitol Hill and in the Roosevelt neighborhood, as well as at Union Station and Westlake Center — and one in Everett. In total, 16 U.S. stores will close by July 31, the company announced Monday.

The closure decisions were based on how many crime-related complaints were logged at each store, a company spokesperson said, and whether attempts to lower those rates were successful. Going forward, store managers will be allowed to choose whether bathrooms are open to the public, and future stores will be redesigned for safety, the company said.

Some of the safety concerns include drug use, theft and assault, a Starbucks spokesperson said.

Workers at the stores that are closing can ask to be reassigned to neighboring stores, the company said. The stores at Union Station and East Olive Way are unionized, and employees who relocate to unionized stores will continue to be represented.

Erin Bray, who works at Union Station, said that she asked for more security, including guards in the cafe lobby, after assaults occurred there.

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Starbucks said there is a full-time security guard at Union Station, with an additional security support worker at times. The cafe’s hours were adjusted for safety and the store was closed on weekends.

Bray said additional security wasn’t hired, but that workers generally felt safe and never thought they needed to close the store.

“I just feel helpless,” Bray said Monday, after learning her store would close.

In addition to the 11802 Evergreen Way store in Everett, these Seattle stores will close:

  • 2300 S. Jackson St.
  • 6417 Roosevelt Way N.E.
  • 1600 E. Olive Way
  • 505 Fifth Ave. S.
  • 400 Pine St.

Labor law requires Starbucks to hold collective bargaining with workers at Union Station and East Olive Way before closing those cafes, Bray said. Workers can try to negotiate to keep the store open, Bray said, but it’s an uphill battle.

“We’re supposed to come to the table with proposals,” Bray said. “And I don’t know what we can propose realistically when it seems that fighting to keep the store open is a losing battle.”

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In a memo to employees Monday, Denise Nielsen and Debbie Stroud, Starbucks senior vice presidents for U.S. operations, said the changes are in response to crises around “personal safety, racism, lack of access to health care, a growing mental health crisis, rising drug use and more” that play out at Starbucks stores.

Interim CEO Howard Schultz, who has returned for a third stint as chief executive, said during a New York Times panel last month that Starbucks was considering closing cafe bathrooms to the public in response. Instead of a companywide policy, individual store managers will decide if bathrooms will remain open, the company said Monday.

Store layouts will be rearranged. New front-line workers will be trained on how to deal with active shooters and use conflict de-escalation, according to Starbucks. Workers will also receive more mental health benefits as they deal with difficult safety situations, the company said.

Redesigning for safety will include “adjusting store formats, furniture layouts, hours of operation, staffing, or testing store-specific solutions,” according to the memo. Those fixes could include restroom occupancy sensors and new alarm systems, as well as paid Lyft rides for workers.

The changes align with five goals also announced Monday by Schultz aimed at “reinventing the Starbucks experience.”

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“We’re seeing unprecedented cultural division and economic trauma — all while navigating a pandemic, and it seems as though every day there is a new crisis to address,” Schultz wrote in a letter to employees. 

The current Starbucks is not built for the future, said Camille Hymes, vice president of U.S. community impact.

“Consumer demands have changed. We recognize the external environment has changed, so we’re responding to that with urgency,” Hymes said.

In June, the company announced a “Heritage Market” initiative at three of Starbucks’ most important stores in downtown Seattle. Each store would have a theme of past, present or future. One of the stores is in the petitioning process for union elections. The Workers United union has petitioned the National Labor Relations Board, arguing the Heritage Market is a union-busting tactic.

Bray said she is scared that if she moves to a nonunion store, she will lose the protections a union offers.

Starbucks said it will increase minimum hours to help ensure continuity for workers reassigned to other stores.

This story has been updated to correct the location of the unionized stores and clarify the neighborhood of the Roosevelt Way store.