A Starbucks in Studio City has been forced to remove guest seating out of safety concerns for customers and employees due to the ongoing mental health and homelessness issues in the area. The coffee shop, located in the 10900 block of Ventura Boulevard, will now only serve to-go orders. The move comes after several similar actions taken by Starbucks in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Seattle-based coffee giant has closed six L.A. stores and 10 others across the nation last year due to safety concerns that make it unsafe to continue to operate.
Addressing the Homelessness Crisis
The mental health and homelessness crisis in Los Angeles has become the biggest issue facing local businesses. The lack of response from the city has forced employees, like baristas at Starbucks, to become the “front-line response to the ongoing crisis.” Several businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area have seen their furniture disappear in the last year, forcing customers to grab-and-go with their coffee. Starbucks’ decision to remove seating from the Studio City store is a response to this ongoing crisis.
The Need for Urgent Action
L.A. City Councilmember Nithya Raman, who represents the district where the Studio City outlet is located, said her office has been receiving numerous complaints from business operators in the area. She highlighted the importance of addressing the homelessness crisis and mental health issues with greater urgency. Raman is currently working to expand the Crisis and Incident Response through Community-Led Engagement (CIRCLE) program which is an alternative to non-emergency 911 calls involving people experiencing homelessness.
Starbucks Empowerment of Store Managers
Starbucks has stated that store managers are “empowered to use the many resources at their disposal to modify store operations and create the best experience for our communities.” They have over 60 locations in Los Angeles and the surrounding area, including drive-through and pickup locations. The spokesperson did not specify when the seating might return or if other stores in the region might take similar action. Starbucks prides itself on “creating a safe, warm, and welcoming Third Place environment,” meaning a place that is separate from a person’s work and home.
The Future of Starbucks
The removal of seating from the Starbucks in Studio City highlights the ongoing mental health and homelessness crisis in Los Angeles. The lack of action from the city has forced businesses to take their own action to ensure the safety of their employees and customers. Starbucks has always been known for providing a welcoming environment for its customers, and the decision to remove seating is an unfortunate response to the ongoing crisis. However, it remains to be seen if this will become a trend for other Starbucks stores in Los Angeles.
Thus, Starbucks’ decision to remove seating in the Studio City store should serve as a wake-up call for the city to address its ongoing mental health and homelessness crisis. The Crisis and Incident Response through Community-Led Engagement (CIRCLE) program is an excellent initiative that should be expanded to other areas. Starbucks’ empowerment of its store managers to modify store operations also highlights the need for businesses to take their own action to ensure the safety of their employees and customers.