Workers protest closure of Starbucks location at Plaza

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 7:12 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Employees who worked at the Starbucks location on the Country Club Plaza gathered outside the store to protest the company’s decision.

The coffee shop closed suddenly Monday afternoon, surprising many employees.

Addy Wright, who had worked for Starbucks for three years, said management communicated the closure to employees via video chat.

“There was no compassion or empathy there,” she said.

Wright and a dozen other employees picketed outside the closed storefront Tuesday morning. Many held signs criticizing the coffee chain. Wright’s read “Starbucks Corporate is Cowardly.”

A sign outside the restaurant said the location would be closed permanently, but did not give a reason. Employees said management had told them the closure was due to safety concerns, specifically a shooting at a nearby parking garage earlier in August. Wright pointed out that the restaurant had stayed open that day, and that prior violent incidents on the Plaza had not led to any closures.

“I don’t understand why this incident, which had no direct impact on any of the workers, influenced them to make this decision without input from the workers,” Wright said.

The Country Club Plaza Location was among the first in the KC area to unionize. Many of the employees suggested the closure may be a union-busting tool.

“This is a chain reaction of Starbucks silencing worker voices,” Wright said.

Starbucks is the latest major brand to leave the district. Other notable closures in the past few years have included Victoria’s Secret, Eddie Bauer, Zoom Toys and Houston’s restaurant. In April, Nordstrom announced that it would not move to the district as planned.

While the district may not be the retail attraction of its heyday, there could still be opportunities for growth there.

Frank Lenk, the Director of Research Services for the Mid-America Regional Council, said the Plaza was going through some of the same transitions that retail centers around the country have faced.

“It’s still one of our premier regional shopping districts,” he said. “It’s got 100 years of history for a reason. It’s a great place to live, to work, to play.”