Closing: Starbucks will close 16 locations nationwide due to safety concerns, including the store at the base of the Santa Monica Pier. Aaron Mikail

Starbucks is closing the recently opened store on Ocean Front Walk citing an inability to provide a safe environment for staff and customers. 

The store has been open for about two years following a remodel of the site and in an announcement this week, Starbucks said it would close 16 stores throughout the country for safety concerns as the company reimagines the future of the business. 

By the end of July, a total of six stores will close in the Los Angeles area including 1st & Los Angeles (Doubletree), 2nd & San Pedro, Hollywood & Vine, Hollywood & Western, Ocean Front Walk & Moss and Santa Monica & Westmount. 

A Starbucks spokesperson said the closure is not the result of any one specific incident or even a set number of incidents over time but rather an accumulation of challenges related to substance abuse, homelessness and economic upheaval caused by the pandemic. In a statement, the company said the closing stores were no longer spaces where the company could provide employees, partners and customers with the experience they expect and are accustomed to. 

The closures come on the heels of two statements from executives that addresses safety in specific and the future of the company. 

Howard Schultz returned to the business as CEO in April and released a letter on Monday calling for the reinvention of the company. 

“It’s clear we’re living in a changing world where economic, societal and operational pressures are colliding. 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,” he said. “All of this affects our partners. All of this affects Starbucks as a company. And all of this deeply affects millions of customers who visit our stores every day. Our stores serve as windows into America and through them we see the magnitude of the hardships and the ways in which people’s needs are changing.”

Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, senior vice presidents of U.S. operations sent their own letter specific to safety at stores. 

“You’ve been open and honest with us about your experience – from what you need to feel your best at work, to the many inspirational and heartfelt examples of how you are creating memorable moments for one another and our customers,” they wrote in a letter to employees. “You’re also 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. With stores in thousands of communities across the country, we know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores too. We read every incident report you file – it’s a lot.”

They said the company will increase training for employees, put clear procedures in place for addressing problems, design stores to feel safe, modify operations (including closing restrooms and shuttering stores) to address safety and provide benefits like mental health services. 

The statement said employees at the six high-incident stores will be transferred to new locations (there will be 17 in the city post-closure) and that the company will continue to help address the challenges communities are facing. This will be built upon the existing work of their Outreach Worker program, Foodshare Program, and other innovative initiatives.

The Starbucks Outreach Worker program connects Starbucks stores across the country with local organizations focused on homelessness. The program recently expanded into its eighth U.S. city to support retail partners while also addressing societal issues like homelessness, mental health and substance use disorder. The program was designed in response to partners sharing the challenges they face in high-complexity markets. It’s currently in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C., San Diego, Philadelphia, Chicago and Denver.

editor@smdp.com