The coffeehouse company announced last summer that executives would close 16 stores in major metropolitan areas, such as Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., over rampant crime that threatened the safety of employees. An impassioned Schultz noted in a leaked video that many of the shuttered stores were profitable and that officials at the “local, state, and federal level” were neglecting to address public safety concerns.
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) asked the veteran executive in a hearing for the Senate Health Committee about whether he still believes that “the lawlessness in this country is out of control” and whether the Biden administration should restore “law and order.”
“We do, in fact, have a significant issue of safety in urban cities around America, and Starbucks has closed many, many stores that were profitable as a result of the fact that our own people do not feel safe working in the stores,” Schultz responded. “And we have a situation of homelessness, drugs, mental illness, and as a result of that, many of the societal issues that we’re facing today are difficult for Starbucks to address because we don’t have the power or the responsibility to address these things, as you’ve described.”
Marshall noted that “it is a sad day for this nation when the crime is so bad that you feel the need to close profitable shops because you cannot keep your employees safe at their place of work.”
The lawmaker added that “every single location” closed by Schultz was in a city managed by Democratic officials. The executive, who endorsed President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, has contributed extensively to Democratic lawmakers and the Democratic National Committee, according to an analysis of federal election data from OpenSecrets. Schultz previously admitted, on the other hand, that the Democratic Party has moved too “far to the left.”
Schultz said in the leaked video that “America has become unsafe” and predicted that there would be “many more” store closures as a result of public safety issues. “It has shocked me that one of the primary concerns that our retail partners have is their own personal safety,” Schultz said about conversations he has held with employees. “And then we heard the stories that go along with it about what happens in our bathrooms, the issue of mental illness, the issue of homelessness, and the issue of crime.”
Urban crime has indeed risen precipitously in the wake of the lockdown-induced recession: the number of murders rose 34% and motor vehicle thefts increased 59% between 2019 and 2022, while the number of robberies, nonresidential burglaries, and larcenies continued to increase between 2021 and 2022, according to data from the Council on Criminal Justice.
The store closures came after Starbucks opened their restaurants and bathrooms to people who had not made purchases, a move which followed an incident involving two black men who were arrested for remaining in a Philadelphia store without buying any items, sparking nationwide outrage among activists and calls to boycott the coffee franchise.