According to KIRO-TV and The Associated Press, the coffee chain said incident reports alleging drug use, assault and theft prompted the decision to close the stores, which include six metro Seattle locations; six in Los Angeles; two in Portland, Oregon; one in Washington, D.C.; and one in Philadelphia. The stores will close by the end of July, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“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, to open new locations with safer conditions,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Employees at the shuttered stores can move to other locations, according to KIRO. The company is also giving store managers the option to close or limit access to restrooms, the TV station reported.
“Today, we find ourselves in a position where we must modernize and transform the Starbucks experience in our stores and recreate an environment that is relevant, welcoming and safe, and where we uplift one another with dignity, respect and kindness,” interim CEO Howard Schultz wrote Monday in a letter to workers, according to KIRO.
The news comes after at least 189 U.S. locations voted to unionize in recent months, the AP reported. Two of the six Seattle area locations slated to close have unionized, and employees at one of the two Portland stores had petitioned a vote, according to the news agency.
A Starbucks spokesperson said unionization was not a factor in deciding which stores to shutter, according to the news agency.
“Opening and closing stores is part of our business operations,” the spokesperson said. “This is really rooted in safe and welcoming stores.”
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.