Starbucks Plaza Shutdown


Starbucks employees protesting against their store closing. (Jasmine Smith)

Maleigha Billings, Writer

The Starbucks on the Country Club Plaza recently shut down due to safety concerns. 

  There was no specific safety incident given as the reasoning behind the closing. According to KCPD’s crime map, no incidents have been reported at that store as of the last month, though there had been some in the area.  

 “They literally kicked customers out of the store and told people we were permanently closing at 3:30 p.m.,” Jasmine Smith said, who was a Plaza Starbucks employee. “After they closed the store, they set up a laptop with two strangers on a FaceTime call who told us that they were shutting us down for safety concerns, which is the same reason they’ve been shutting down stores across the board who were trying to unionize.”

  The store had been gradually closing earlier in the two weeks prior to the permanent shutdown. At 3:15 p.m. on the day of the closing, the district manager informed the employees and customers that the store was going out of business. Employees were given no notice of the store closing.

  “Unfortunately there has been more violence and dangerous group activity on the Plaza,” Brenden Blue said, Blue also worked at Starbucks on the Plaza. “But I don’t exactly agree that abruptly closing the store without any moment’s notice for the workers or the community was the right choice, especially since there was talk of other solutions, such as security, that weren’t even tested before making the final decision.”

  Many employees point to unionization as the reason for the closing, as the store was close to unionizing. According to Blue, workers had been noticing a difference in the way they were treated as they were trying to unionize.

  “There are many ways that the corporation likes to subtly demotivate any partners that are involved within the union,” Blue said. “Things like withholding raises, giving better dress codes to non-union stores, giving fewer benefits to union-pro stores, and so forth.” 

  The employees organized a protest for three days after the coffee shop’s shutdown, wanting to draw attention to the fact that the employees and community were given no warning until they were informed by their manager they were going to new stores.  

  “Most of us got sent to 41st and Maine St., which in and of itself, I think is a joke. Especially if they’re going to be claiming safety and security,” Josh Crowell, an employee on the organizing committee for the Starbucks’ union, said.  

  Crowell also stated that safety was a core reason employees wanted to unionize at the Plaza Starbucks. While Starbucks had previously tried implementing a security officer, they only stayed a few weeks. Crowell said he didn’t see other attempts to fix the safety concern. 

  Workers aren’t the only ones this shutdown affected. Regular customers and the community found the cafe’s closing upsetting. For many, it was an important part of their day. 

  “Most days, my trip to Starbucks was my only outing… I was always greeted by several baristas with ‘Hi Amanda,’” Plaza Starbucks regular Amanda Booz said. “I have clinical depression and that simple hello and short chat with the baristas made me feel like I mattered in this world. Now there is not a Starbucks anywhere conveniently close to me.”

  The Plaza Starbucks is closed for the foreseeable future, and there will be no more resistance from the former employees. According to Crowell their next step is to just get adjusted to their new stores, and continue the fight for unionization.

  Jasmine is now one of many employees acclimating to their new locations, “It’s just difficult to try to rebuild what I had at the plaza here, and know that if I make one wrong move Starbucks could shut us down for any given reason.” 

[email protected]