Neighbourhood Starbucks closure in Winnipeg raises alarms about local crime

A Starbucks in Winnipeg is closing down. But the talk in town is not about coffee. Rather, crime.

On Thursday, the location in Osborne Village on River Avenue posted signage about the closure just one day after an attack at the Liquor Mart next door.

Winnipeg police allege a man with an outstanding warrant attacked one of the mart’s customers, and is facing a charge the described as “Assault by Choking, Suffocating or Strangling.”

Starbucks confirmed the site will be temporarily shuttered starting May 6, but said there is no anticipated re-opening date. The company did not give a specific reason for the decision.

“Starbucks routinely evaluates our store portfolio to determine how and where we can best meet the needs of our partners, customers, and the communities we serve,” a Starbucks spokesperson said. “This includes reviewing the partner and customer experience to ensure partners are supported in serving customers in a warm and welcoming environment.”

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The spokesperson also said employees will have the option to transfer to nearby locations.

Zohreh Gervais, executive director of Osborne Village BIZ, said it was one of those employees who told her the site was closing due to safety concerns.

“I was a little bit taken aback when I found out that this was happening, and also really sad because that has been a real focal point in the community. It’s been a real hub for like almost 20 years now, I think,” she said.

But, Gervais continued, Starbucks’ apparent decision is not uncalled for with increasing security and safety issues.

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“Not just here,” she said, “but because Osborne Village is such a densely populated area, I feel like we’re seeing it more.”

Statistics from the Winnipeg police show crime has been on the rise in the River-Osborne neighbourhood since 2020.

A crime map shows a 44.6 per cent increase in illegal activity in the area over 2023 when compared to 2022.

Neighbourhood Starbucks closure in Winnipeg raises alarms about local crime - image
Screen capture from Winnipeg Police Service

SeoRhin Yoo with the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses’ Prairie Division, said many small businesses in the province are worried about crime.

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“More than half have been directly or indirectly impacted by crime,” she said, adding the Starbucks closure says a lot.

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“They have a lot more resources than, say, your neighbourhood coffeeshop. The fact that they have to resort to a closure and placing their employees in other franchises, tells you a lot about the state the province is in right now,” she said, noting many small businesses can’t afford to close up shop.

While she appreciates what the province is doing for the long-term, Yoo said more efforts need to be dedicated to the short-term.

So far in 2024, police report almost 27 per cent of calls for service in River-Osborne have been related to disturbances or danger, and almost 26 per cent for wellbeing checks.
So far in 2024, police report almost 27 per cent of calls for service in River-Osborne have been related to disturbances or danger, and almost 26 per cent for wellbeing checks. Screen capture from Winnipeg Police Service

Gervais said there are numerous factors contributing to these calls, including addictions, mental health, and lack of housing.

“These security issues, these safety issues, are too big for a business to tackle,” she said.

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Dustin Marks, co-owner of Saikel Indoor Cycle Studio in Osborne Village, said safety is certainly a concern for the facility, but that he is more or less resigned to it.

“Yes, it’s unfortunate, but it’s kind of just a part of city living,” he said, adding the studio has had to implement safety protocols since moving to the area in 2020.

“We have locked door policies, that kind of stuff, when there’s no support around. (But) we’re not very often open past dark, which is nice. A lot of our schedule is daytime,” he said, noting that those hours make commuting to and from work, and being there, feel safer.

It’s also not bad for business.

“A lot of people that work in the area come to our lunch hour classes, and they walk over from their office and pop in for a 35-minute class, have a great time, then go back to work,” Marks said.

But the studio has had a run-in with crime before.

Without going into detail, he said there was an incident in the property’s back parking lot.

“We now have different parking strategies,” he said. “Walking somebody out if it’s a nighttime thing, or most of our staff park in the front parking lot where it’s well-lit and well-observed by the public eye.”

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Gervais said she has been seeing a problematic increase in daytime incidents.

Even so, Marks said he loves the community.

“(There’s) a lot of friendly faces around.”

Gervais said it’s those friendly faces that make Osborne Village so great.

“Everybody wants this neighbourhood to thrive and to do well, and we all want it to be that place that you go and hang out at with your friends,” she said. “I’m really excited by the drive that people have to make that happen.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg police arrest suspect in Osborne Village Burger King assault'

Winnipeg police arrest suspect in Osborne Village Burger King assault

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