Rite Aid shutters another drug store in Seattle amid spiking crime

“We've had too many cases of employees ending up in the hospital or with very serious issues”

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
On Wednesday, Rite Aid, owner of Seattle-based Bartell Drugs, announced it will be permanently closing the chain’s Ballard location at 15th and Market on June 8 as the area continues to grapple with rampant shoplifting and crime.

In a release, Rite Aid said the store will be closed “on a variety of factors including business strategy, lease and rent conditions and viability, and store performance.”

Bartell Drugs, with 67 locations across the Pacific Northwest according to their website, like many other stores in the Seattle area, has been a focal point for crime and shoplifting with many retailers closing due to crime concerns.

Though Rite Aid did not specify a reason for the closure of the Ballard location, according to a 2020 survey of 88 businesses that included Bartell, Ballard businesses have been victims of crimes such as shoplifting and assault, leading to financial losses and employees feeling unsafe.

Bartell's Sr. Vice President of Operations, Ken Mahoney, told the Ballard Alliance in 2020 that the assistant manager of the Ballard location was assaulted, adding “Employees are plagued by habitual shoplifters and harassment.”

In March 2019, the CEO of Bartell Drugs Kathi Lentzsch announced the chain would not be opening any more stores in downtown Seattle due to theft and violent assaults on employees.

Lentzsch said at the time that the criminals are bold, and many of them are repeat offenders, telling Fox 13 “They will stand in front of our staff with a basket full of products and tell them we know you can’t come after us, and walk out the door.”

She added, “We've had too many cases of employees ending up in the hospital or with very serious issues” and that multiple employees have been rushed to the hospital because of violent assaults when shoplifting escalates to assaults or in unprovoked attacks.

Lentzsch added that the problem is not unique to Bartell Drug because competitors are facing the same issues as are many other retailers in Seattle.

In September of that year, the chain closed its flagship downtown Seattle location due to crime before its lease expired.

At the time, the chain said in a statement, that the cost of stolen items and hiring armed security had become too high.

“The cost of doing business downtown due to the need for armed security guards, and the increases from a variety of Seattle’s costly requirements that have come into play over the past few years, now means that it costs us less to pay the rent with no offset than it does to operate the store.”

In 2022, Bartell closed its location in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District. Rite Aid was noncommittal as to a reason, but according to the SPD crime dashboard at the time, there had been 491 cases of property crime, including 108 cases of burglary & 327 cases of larceny-theft in the area.

Crime has continued to spike in Seattle in the wake of the defund the police movement by the city council and close to 600 officers have been separated from the department.

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