LOS ANGELES - Customers at the six Los Angeles-area Starbucks locations stores closing permanently at the end of the month are upset. By now, they’ve heard the company is closing down the stores due to a high frequency of "challenging incidents" and security concerns, especially for employees.
"Homeless people come in here and harass baristas and customers," said one man outside the busy location at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, where Hollywood security personnel patrol the heavily-touristed area, and seem to help, say most people we talked to, who quickly added "It's just not enough!"
"I just got attacked at the supermarket up the street," said one West Hollywood resident. He is particularly upset about the closure of the popular Starbucks on Santa Monica Boulevard and Westmount Drive, which the City’s mayor described as a fixture in the community popularly known as "Big Gay Starbucks."
West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister reacted to the criticism that the closures come just after West Hollywood’s city council voted to approve reducing the number of armed deputies, to get more of the unarmed blue safety Ambassadors that councilmembers insist will reduce more crime. In a statement to FOX 11 she said:
We’ve seen an uptick of reports of aggressive behavior in the area, and we are working with our community safety partners to respond. This trend is not limited to West Hollywood, it’s all over the region. We know that Starbucks is closing a total of 16 stores in various areas of the country and, this week, it announced a reinvention of the next chapter of the company, so there may be a number of other factors involved in its decision. Personally, I look forward to continuing to patronize the other Starbucks locations in West Hollywood and I remain committed to addressing safety concerns in our community." Mayor Lauren Meister, City of West Hollywood.
But residents in West Hollywood and the other cities losing stores say they worry there will be more homeless encampments and crime if the stores closed.
"That’s very likely" says Dr. Tom Chang, Assistant Professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business, who has been studying the effect of business closures on communities. When a retail store closes, crime increases around it, he said. So closures set up a situation that only gets worse, especially if the location remains vacant, which is happening more often with the economy not recovering from the pandemic.
"It’s not good," said one customer, "and it’s probably gonna get worse, before it gets better, with our communities paying the price, with more crime."