Blue Bottle Coffee has become the largest United States coffee chain to temporarily close all its retail locations in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
The Oakland- and Sacramento-based company announced it is closing all 71 of its U.S. stores, which are located in the major markets of the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York and Boston.
“While we wish we could remain open to offer you a safe haven in these uncertain times, we simply do not have the benefit of enough information to ensure our public spaces are safe,” Blue Bottle CEO Bryan Meehan wrote in the company announcement. “So we are doing what we know is right in the moment.”
The company said that it will reevaluate the position in two weeks, while it will continue to maintain its existing staff, pay rates and any health benefits, with baristas being paid for their scheduled hours.
It is worth noting that Nestlé-owned Blue Bottle is expected to soon settle a class-action originally filed in California in 2018 that alleges systematic wage theft. According to a San Francisco Chronicle report last week, the company plans to settle the suit for $1.5 million.
In a statement emailed to the Chronicle and verified by DCN, an attorney representing Blue Bottle said the company believes it has always been in compliance with California law, although it chose to settle “because the settlement results in more money being paid directly to employees, and less to attorneys.”
Outside of the United States, Blue Bottle is continuing to operate its dozens of cafes in Korea and Japan, with Meehan noting that “we believe it is currently safe to operate there with the enhanced health and wellness measures we have implemented.”
The company is continuing to operate its U.S. and Asian roasteries for coffee delivery and all other sales channels.
“We are closely monitoring this situation and look forward to welcoming everyone back into our cafes just as soon as we can,” Meehan wrote. “For now, we encourage our teams and guests to stay at home with loved ones and to keep kindness at the forefront of our lives, so that together we can help flatten the curve of this spread. In the meantime, our profound thanks goes out to all in the medical community who are battling this virus on the front lines.”
Blue Bottle’s difficult decision to close follows an announcement from the largest U.S. coffee retailer, Starbucks, that it was temporarily shuttering some stores while transitioning to a to-go model in all others in the U.S. and Canada. Other well-known U.S. regional chains that have announced coronavirus-related temporary retail shut downs as of Monday morning include San Francisco-based Sightglass Coffee and Milwaukee-based Stone Creek Coffee Roasters.
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