St. Paul, MN – Starbucks has temporarily closed the drive-thru lanes at a popular location in the Twin Cities after employees refused to work there with St. Paul police directing traffic outside.
The Starbucks located at the intersection of Snelling and Marshall Avenues in St. Paul – affectionately nicknamed the “Snarshall Starbucks” – is one of the busiest locations in the city, the Pioneer Press reported.
That coffee shop has also become known as “Carbucks” in a derogatory sense for the horrible traffic jams that are caused by lines at its drive-thru.
And there has been more than one customer whose vehicle crashed through the bollards placed along the adjacent bike lanes on Marshall Avenue, the Pioneer Press reported.
In fact, Minnesota State Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch had her wrist broken when she was hit by an SUV outside the Snarshall Starbucks in October of 2019.
So in 2018, Starbucks made an agreement to hire St. Paul police officers to direct traffic around the drive-through lanes “during the morning peak period” when it causes the most traffic jams, the Pioneer Press reported.
The coffee company contracted with the St. Paul police to provide uniformed, off-duty officers to manage the traffic snarls and that agreement proceeded without incident for years, although there are still complaints about the perpetually-congested drive-thru lanes.
In the weeks that led up to former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd, St. Paul Police Spokeswoman Sergeant Natalie Davis said the department paused all off-duty employment, the Pioneer Press reported.
All of the local police officers were needed to help control the civil unrest that erupted after the officer-involved fatal shooting of Daunte Wright in nearby Brooklyn Center.
Sgt. Davis told the Pioneer Press that when the police department went back to regular scheduling for the traffic direction detail at the Starbucks located at Snelling and Marshall after Chauvin was convicted of murder, the company told them they didn’t want police officers working there anymore.
An employee who was not named told the newspaper that a group of mostly “queer” women of color in their 20s who worked at the Snarshall Starbucks location organized themselves and decided they would refuse to open the store at all if a St. Paul police officer was outside directing traffic.
“We basically gave an ultimatum to our district manager and our regional vice president,” the employee bragged to the Pioneer Press.
She said they informed Starbucks management that they didn’t want the six or seven off-duty officers employed by Starbucks to continue to direct traffic there.
The group of employees was concerned about the interactions between the white police officers who had been working there for years and their black and Somali customers, the Pioneer Press reported.
But despite those assertions, Starbucks still has a legally-binding agreement with the city to have police officers direct traffic and an ongoing contract with the St. Paul Police Department.
The store was closed briefly on Sunday after the initial demand for Starbucks to stop using the police officers, the Pioneer Press reported.
It reopened the next day with the drive-through lanes blocked off.
Starbucks at Snelling and Selby remains open, but its drive-thru does not. A young man in the parking lot can hand deliver your order if you choose not to come inside. No police officer on duty. pic.twitter.com/Pn7Zr6catR
— Frederick Melo, Reporter (@FrederickMelo) April 26, 2021
Starbucks did not confirm the employee’s story to The Police Tribune and explained that the situation was only temporary.
“We have temporarily closed the drive-thru and shifted operations while the local team continues to discuss a long-term solution that meets the needs of this community,” Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges said.
That particular Starbucks location has been through multiple review processes with the city and has made more than one round of modifications in an attempt to resolve the long lines at the drive-thru snarling traffic for blocks, according to Foodservice News.
Critics have said St. Paul never should have allowed a drive-thru to be built at the busy location but fans point out that it’s one of very few drive-thru coffee options in the city and remained in high demand.