Posted For: Willie Wonka
A NoHo Starbucks is dealing with more than just a constant flow of caffeine junkies looking to get their fix.
The café at the corner of Astor Place and Lafayette Street regularly contends with drug users, mentally disturbed people and homeless folks looking to take a nap, The Post witnessed.
“Starbucks got too woke too fast,” said java joint regular 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.”
This past week, The Post saw homeless people nodding off, washing their hair in a public sink and being transported to the hospital from the recently unionized Starbucks. Among the eye-openers:
- One man brought in his own box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, a carton of milk and some Entenmann’s mini crumb cakes before passing out face down on a table. Afterward, he rolled spliffs as nearby, paying customers tried to enjoy their lattes and Frappuccinos.
- A mentally disturbed man in a black trench coat talked to himself and screamed obscenities at the communal mirror near the bathrooms for 30 minutes. “There’s a guy over by the bathrooms making people really uncomfortable,” one customer told an employee behind the counter. Two police officers, one of whom carrying a riot shield, eventually removed him without incident.
- There’s also the foul odor and garbage build up at the location — newspapers, food wrappers and empty coffee cups litter the indoor patio. “Nothing like the smell of BO and urine with your morning coffee,” a Nextdoor user commented in response to a photo that showed snoozing squatters lying in a booth surrounded by trash, tote bags and luggage.
- On Friday, EMTs were called to assist a man who had passed out on the steps, blocking an exit. He regained consciousness and entered the ambulance with the help of the paramedics.
Once Manhattan’s largest Starbucks — now outsized by the 23,000 square foot Starbucks Reserve and Roastery in Chelsea — the Astor Place location is a go-to spot for the destitute, said Dave, a 28-year-old homeless man from Boston.
“They’ve got phone chargers and nice couches,” he said. “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 it’s Starbucks’ own fault its shops have been commandeered by derelicts, drunks, and dope pushers, after they made their bathrooms public and even put 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 giant has taken some major blows this summer.
Starbucks recently announced it would shutter 16 profitable stores, two of which are unionized, across Seattle; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Washington, DC and Portland, Oregon, due to safety concerns, violent crime and rampant drug use in and around the shops.
“It has shocked me that one of the primary concerns that our retail partners have is their own personal safety. And then we heard the stories that go along with it about what happens in our bathrooms,” CEO Howard Schultz said during an internal meeting that was first reported by the Post Millennial in July. “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.”
A Starbucks spokesperson said individual locations have the authority to change hours or go “drive-thru only” as a way to “do what they need to create a safe environment.”