By: Serach Nissim
The NoHo Starbucks is not just for caffeine addicts anymore.
As reported by the NY Post, the café at the corner of Astor Place and Lafayette Street has become a hotspot for drug users, drunks, the homeless and mentally disturbed. The Starbucks location was once the biggest in Manhattan, boasting large plush couches and phone chargers. Gone are the days, however, when posh clients used to come in for their coffee and sit with their laptops. Now, there are people sleeping at tables, bringing in their own cereal boxes, entering with multiple large bags, and smoking pot in the bathrooms. “Nothing like the smell of BO and urine with your morning coffee,” one Next door user commented, in response to a picture posted showed sleeping squatters in a booth flanked by trash, luggage and tote bags.
On Friday, EMTs were called to assist a man who had passed out on the steps, blocking an exit. As per the Post, another day last week, there was a mentally disturbed man talked to himself and screaming obscenities at the communal mirror near the bathrooms for half an hour. The recently unionized Starbucks has become a place where the homeless go freely to enjoy air conditioning and wash their face. “They’ve got phone chargers and nice couches,” said Dave, a 28-year-old homeless man from Boston. “Ever since those black guys were arrested at one in Philadelphia a few years ago, nobody really wants to touch you. Employees might come over and very quietly ask sleeping people to wake up and move on, but then those same guys go right back to sleep. The cops will only show up if someone is dangerous.”
Critics say Starbucks deserves part of the blame for the state of its shops. “Starbucks got too woke too fast,” said longtime patron Konstantin Dobryakov. “Now some customers are too scared to go in because you’ve got a bunch of homeless people sleeping in there. They got to be ready to kick people out and not give everyone a free cup of coffee. You give them a finger and they’ll take a hand.” Critics also pointed to Starbucks’ policy to make their bathrooms public, even adding syringe disposal boxes in some of them. “They allow anybody to use their restrooms, which sounds like a good idea, but when you’ve got a country that uses public space as homeless shelters and mental health wards, that assures having people shooting up heroin in the bathrooms and halfway moving into them,” said Kevin Williamson, a political commentator.
The Java chain is seeing the consequences unravel. In July, Starbucks announced it will permanently close 16 profitable stores, due to safety concerns, violent crime and rampant drug use in and around the stores. The shuttered stores, two of which are unionized, span across the country, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Portland, Oregon.
“We are facing things in which the stores were not built for. So we’re listening to our people and closing stores. This is just the beginning. There are going to be many more,” said CEO Howard Schultz during an internal meeting.
A Starbucks spokesperson commented saying, individual locations have the right to change hours or go “drive-thru only” as a way to “do what they need to create a safe environment.”