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Whole Foods closes flagship San Francisco store over employee safety concerns

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(SAN FRANCISCO) — Whole Foods is temporarily closing a large store in downtown San Francisco due to concerns over employee safety, the company said on Wednesday.

The closure arrives roughly a week after the high-profile killing of Cash App Founder Bob Lee in San Francisco, which sparked crime fears among some city residents.

Overall, crime in San Francisco is down nearly 10% this year compared to last year, but homicides are up 20% and robberies are up more than 13%, San Francisco crime data shows.

The Whole Foods store, which spans nearly 65,000 square feet, opened last year at Trinity Place in the city’s Mid Market neighborhood.

A company press release announcing the store’s opening in March 2022 referred to the location as a “flagship store.”

Whole Foods opted to close the location to “ensure worker safety,” the company said, noting that all of the employees would be transferred to nearby locations.

“We have made the difficult decision to close the Trinity store for the time being,” the company said in a statement.

Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, said it would assess a reopening of the store if it feels it can protect employees at the location.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Matt Dorsey said he was “incredibly disappointed but sadly unsurprised” with the decision.

“Our neighborhood waited a long time for this supermarket, but we’re also well aware of problems they’ve experienced with drug-related retail theft, adjacent drug markets, and the many safety issues related to them,” he added.

The store cut its operating hours last year due to theft and hostility among its customers, the San Francisco Standard reported.

Whole Foods operates eight other locations in the San Francisco area.

In California, violent crime increased by 6% last year but remained well below a peak experienced in the early 1990s, according to a report from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California released in October.

The Whole Foods announcement stoked criticism from some prominent Republican figures over the threat of crime in major U.S. cities, which are typically run by Democratic mayors.

Violent crime in U.S. urban areas increased by 4.4% over the year ending in June 2022, a study from the Major Cities Chiefs Association found. However, instances of homicide and rape fell over that period, the study showed.

After the murder of Lee on April 4, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said in a statement that the city does not tolerate violent crime.

“There is no place for this kind of violent crime against anyone in our city,” Scott said.

“I want to assure everyone that our investigators are working tirelessly to make an arrest and bring justice to Mr. Lee and his loved ones, just as we try to do on every homicide that occurs in our city.”

ABC News’ Bill Hutchinson contributed reporting.

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