This week, six Starbucks locations in Los Angeles will be closed forever because the company cites “a large number of challenging incidents.” “It’s a whole thing every day,” said one barista. He continued: “People get violent here. people steal things. It’s very aggressive.”
“They spit at us,” said another. A common concern among baristas is having drinks thrown at them.
“Better iced tea than hot tea — look on the bright side,” said Ray Indolos, who spends several days each week sitting and drawing at various Starbucks in Los Angeles. “I’m super flashed. Some of my favorite Starbucks are closing.” At the location in downtown Little Tokyo, Indolos sat at a table with two fountain pens, inkbrushes, and a sketchpad spread out in front of him. “I do my artistic work. I live off the whole atmosphere here, the energy of the people,” he said.
He looked around the store. “My first guess is, is this guy going to stab me? And if not, more power for him. It only takes one look.” He pointed to a man dancing alone. “God bless him, whatever he’s going through,” he said. “He doesn’t bother me.”
Indolos started hanging out at Starbucks twenty-two years ago. “I’m from Hollywood,” he said. “This is where I hitched my horse.” His regular order is an iced americano with chocolate foam. He used to work in the animation industry and now works in the office of a psychiatric facility. He continued, “I mean, it’s not like a mafia hotbed or anything. It’s not so much crime as disorder.”
“Starbucks is a window to America,” Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO, said in a note to employees last month. “We’re facing things that stores weren’t built for.” Inside the Hollywood and Western branch, two monitors showed customers live video of themselves: a woman in leopard print leggings ordering at the checkout, another woman, who went through the garbage and fished out a half-smoked cigarette. At a Little Tokyo location, an employee was hit by a used hypodermic needle while dumping garbage.
Starbucks plans to offer de-escalation training at the locations that remain open. Indolos agrees: “You’re making coffee and you’re facing someone who’s really upset and you’re going to have some tools to rely on,” he said. Baristas, he added, “should all have jujitsu and karate on their resumes.”
“It’s not that different from Hollywood and Highland where people come in half-naked and scream at the top of their lungs,” he said. “I think that’s cool.”
And now? “I guess I have to get coffee on the street.” Some people speculate that the closures are in response to baristas’ efforts to unionize. A Starbucks representative denied this: “Look, there are many other Starbucks in Los Angeles.”
Starbucks has taken various measures over the years to discourage people from staying, such as: B. covering electrical outlets and encouraging the use of its mobile app. Indolos sees no point in a drive-through Starbucks. He usually spends two or three hours in the café. “As an artist, I observe people here. I want to know what their business is,” he said. “Some people stand there in this different way — they don’t have that ‘I have to go pick up my kids’ look. ”
“Gone are the days when Starbucks was open until 2 AM,” He continued. “This is the stuff of legends. Now it’s mostly 6 pm or 8 pm, For safety. Total spoilsport.”
Celebrity bus tourists stood around during intermission in front of Hollywood and Vine Starbucks, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Next to Spike Jonze’s star, a homeless man sat on a blanket with a Starbucks iced tea. One barista said: “People come in here, they make a lot of noise, they bang on the walls, they yell at us. People come in with their hands in their pants. There was a fight outside. One guy was completely covered in blood. One guy had an iPad and took a picture of the butts of the two girls I was taking an order from. I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said, ‘Give me some water.’ I said, ‘Get in line and I’ll get you a water.’ People lock themselves in the bathroom. As soon as it gets dark we lock the doors, pull down the blinds and just use the window. We called security and it didn’t really help.” She continued, “People come into Hollywood and say, ‘I didn’t expect that.’ ” ♦