Starbucks to close six Los Angeles-area stores it calls ‘unsafe to continue to operate’

People walk in front of a Starbucks in downtown Los Angeles
Starbucks plans to close six stores in the Los Angeles area and 10 locations in other major cities because of what it says are safety issues including drug use and threatening behavior. Above, one of the L.A. stores facing closure, at 2nd and San Pedro streets in Little Tokyo.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Starbucks plans to close six stores in the Los Angeles area and 10 locations in other major cities because of what it says are safety issues, including drug use and threatening behavior.

“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,” Starbucks said in a statement to The Times.

The Los Angeles-area stores slated for closure 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

Employees at the Hollywood and the downtown DoubleTree hotel stores declined to speak with The Times. An employee at one of the other locations, who requested anonymity because the staff was directed not to speak to reporters, said the closure was “pretty upsetting news.”

“No matter where you go, you’re going to find the same issues,” said the employee, who was “not particularly” worried about safety at work but said some days could be chaotic.


The Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal reported that, in addition to the Los Angeles-area stores, six stores in the company’s hometown of Seattle are scheduled to close along with two stores in Portland, Ore., and one each in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

A national labor movement sweeping through the coffee chain has arrived in Southern California, with two stores voting to unionize.

The six L.A.-area stores slated to close had not unionized, according to a statement from Starbucks Workers United, but two of the Seattle stores set to close had voted to unionize and one of the Portland locations had petitioned to hold a union vote.

Starbucks officials, though, have said that the closures were not related to unionization efforts — calling the move “part of our business operations.”

“This is really rooted in safe and welcoming stores,” a company official told the Associated Press.

But union leaders were skeptical.

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

Starbucks said employees will be able to transfer to other locations, the Associated Press reported.

The robberies in Brea, La Habra, Santa Ana, Riverside, Upland and Ontario may be connected, police said. Two people were killed and three injured.

The announcement of the closures came as company executives told employees they were taking steps to address concerns about safety in Starbucks stores.

“You’re 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,” Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, senior vice presidents of U.S. operations, said in a letter to staff members. “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.”

Stroud and Nelson said the company would implement a long list of measures, including training in de-escalation, active-shooter situations, mental health and first aid, and closing restrooms and even entire locations.

Regulars at some of the L.A.-area Starbucks stores scheduled to close continued to pick up their lattes and cold brews Wednesday, many pondering new places to buy coffee — or finally committing to at-home brews.

“Every time I go hiking, I come over here, so it’s pretty lame that they’re closing it down,” Kimberly Torres said at the Hollywood and Western location in Little Armenia after a visit to Griffith Park. She scoffed at issues of safety but said some unhoused people often hang out at the intersection.

Mario Sanchez, a driver for DoorDash, doubted the closures would make a real difference.

“Any place in downtown is not safe,” Sanchez said, picking up a delivery order at the Starbucks at 2nd and San Pedro. “Any place, not only here.”

Times staff writer Salvador Hernandez contributed to this report.