Since 1971, Starbucks has worked hard to become a “clean, well-lighted place” for customers across the world. In (most) of the 33,000 stores in 80 countries, you’ll find decent coffee, comfortable seating, soft lighting, Free WiFi, and, of course, clean bathrooms. It’s a place for friends, a place for business, a place to start or end dates, and a place to help jumpstart your day.

Interim CEO Howard Schultz

That atmosphere took time to create.

That may all change according to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Speaking in a June 9th interview in the New York Times, the CEO said, “We have to harden our stores and provide safety for our people. I don’t know if we can keep our bathrooms open.”

Schultz and Starbucks are addressing an ongoing problem plaguing many food service businesses. A problem which reared its ugly head during the COVID-19 pandemic and again by the latest rash of mass shootings. Safety.

Starbucks doesn’t have security, doesn’t have metal detectors, and its employees are not trained in conflict resolution or crisis intervention. And anyone can walk through those glass doors.  ANYONE.

Closing its public bathrooms won’t stop stray foot traffic, but it may keep it more manageable. Such a drastic policy change is shocking, but Starbucks has a right to worry. Here’s why…

In 1997, three employees were found murdered in the back of a D.C. Starbucks. No money had been taken.

In 2017, a drug deal in a Chicago Starbucks went south and a man opened fire in the crowded restaurant, killing one person and wounding two.

In 2021, a man in a Los Angeles Starbucks drive-thru was killed by a stray bullet from a shootout in a nearby park.

In 2022, a child watched as her mother shot and killed her grandmother over a custody dispute inside a Starbucks in Richardson, Texas.

The list goes on and on.

While this may become policy for stores across the country, the proposed solution creates another issue for employees: Who monitors those entering a Starbucks and who asks non-customers to leave? In those instances, the potential for conflict is high and employees would need some kind of training. And larger pay checks.

In the last four decades, Starbucks established thousands of stores that millions consider “a home away from home…away from home.” In a increasingly violent and unpredictable world, Schultz’s decision may change that perception permanently.