Here’s why QFC is closing off its Harvard Ave entrances

This one at the Harvard Market QFC will see “similar changes” next

To cut down on theft — especially of the chain’s most popular target — QFC is planning to shut down the backside Harvard Ave entrance at both of its Capitol Hill stores on Broadway.

Weekend shoppers found changes at the Broadway Market store implemented over the weekend with the Harvard Ave doors across from the library closed to shoppers. A company spokesperson explained the change to CHS — and got some quality marketing into the statement:

We are focusing on putting our people in the front and center of our business. This includes our customers, associates and vendor community. We’re honored to be able to present an abundance of fresh and local Pacific Northwest products to our customers. We consider ourselves to be champions of our local farmers and vendor partners and in order to support our people, we need to be able to run a safe and profitable business. In short, we need to be paid for the product that we put on our shelves, which in turn will allow us to continue providing the best products and promoting our local businesses.

“We expect that these increased security measures will allow us to continue to serve our customers at the highest level while also limiting the amount of unpaid merchandise that leaves our stores,” the spokesperson said.


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The spokesperson confirmed that “similar changes” are coming to the Harvard Market entrance off Harvard Ave just above Pike.

In 2015, CHS called working at the Broadway Market QFC one of the most dangerous jobs on the Hill as we reported on anecdotes involving theft, drugs, and people suffering a mental crisis ,and the employees left to try to deal with the situations that arise. At the same time, thousands of shoppers use the stores every week in mostly uneventful transactions.

The QFC changes come years after the privatization of liquor sales began in 2012. They also come in the run-up to the planned opening of Whole Foods at Broadway and Madison and in an increasingly competitive Capitol Hill-area grocery economy.

Meanwhile, this isn’t the first time QFC access issues have made news on CHS. In 2014, we reported on the solution to repair the perpetually broken Harvard Market escalator: replacing it with stairs.

While the change of a sliding glass door isn’t the most significant alteration to the urban environment around Capitol Hill, it will mean change for a lot of people and a lot of different types of people given the store’s popularity. Senior groups, for example, typically use the Harvard Market QFC’s Harvard Ave entrance for pick-up and drop-off for customers who prefer to do their own shopping.

QFC is “currently working with some of our regular shopping groups that use the door to ensure that they are taken care of,” the spokesperson said.

This Harvard Ave entrance to the Broadway Market QFC is now closed…

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52 thoughts on “Here’s why QFC is closing off its Harvard Ave entrances

  1. I get it, but closing the back entrance especially at Harvard Market is a true inconvenience as well as a surrender by Kroger. I hope that Kroger will provide dedicated senior shuttle parking on the upper level so the passengers can use the elevator. For the rest of us, it equates to an extra 2 blocks round trip walk. Not great customer service.

    • QFC doesn’t own the garages. And if seniors are already parking and using the elevator, how would this affect them? This inconveniences people taking shuttles from their facilities. Why would that same shuttle van not just drop them off at the top level of Harvard Mkt near the elevator, or by the front door at Broadway Mkt?

    • Jim 98122, they are not. The shuttles use the entrance in question. That is why i made the suggestion. Leasing a parking space for the shuttle in the lot would be a great goodwill gesture and would keep the senior shuttle customers. No reason they can’t go elsewhere. The front door is too congested, especially with the streetcar. No room for a shuttle to park.

  2. This is really sad.

    I have no idea whether this is related to our local homelessness and mental health crises. The previous report makes me think it must be.

    Regardless, we need to come together as a community and find compassionate ways to address these crises and also enforce the law. What we’re doing right now isn’t working and it isn’t good for anyone.

  3. The Broadway QFC’s have been going downhill ever since they stopped being 24 hours. Now they close one of the 2 main entrances to the store that everyone uses. I’m legitimately curious if one or both of the QFC’s on Broadway will eventually just close for good. Clearly they care more about the theft from the stores than serving the neighborhood and making it accessible.

  4. I gotta say I struggle with this QFC’s entire floor design, and closing the back door just makes it more challenging. The wasted space between the stairs to the upper level and the expanded self-checkout lanes (1/2 of which remain closed when you walk up to check out-WHY?!) is absurd. The requisite zigging and zagging and stairs and elevators combined with a lack-luster deli make me more likely to rent a zipcar and shop elsewhere. I wish every other department was as well tended and stocked as the wine/beer/liquor areas. There are some thoughtful and professional folk who work at this store, and I know the challenges they face because as a resident of the Hill, I deal with all the same issues walking to the train or attempting to shop at the ever-dwindling store-front options on Broadway. But too often I find it is just less and less worth the hassle to shop here.

    • For those who don’t know, of course the layout of this store is awful, as it represents a takeover of the Fred Meyer plus the nearly all the remaining center portions of Broadway Market, which had previously been divided into public seating, separate stores, a newsstand, vendor stalls, differently placed elevator and escalator and overall a better flow. It’s an awful, awkward layout. When QFC was across the street, it had two entrances, but I think both faced south. The new layout with massive amounts of self-checkout in the front is still confusing and visual overload. I am glad QFC will have more competition. But unless people shop with prices more in mind, just having other grocery stores nearby won’t matter. People need to pay attention to pricing (but new Amazon money tends not to so drives it up for everyone). Overall, it’s a disaster area.

  5. It seems pretty easy for many of you to trash QFC in this. They are simply reacting to the fact that they are losing money to shoplifters. The percentage of profit in grocery stores is extremely low. They make their money on volume. So when any ongoing problem consistently takes money away from their bottom line, they become unprofitable. Their hard costs are high. High rents impact them, too. Having security at that door would also adds to overhead.

    • Agreed. Not to mention also, it seems some of these posters, from their entitled tone, seem to think a grocery store exists solely as a community service. While it’s all well and good to support the community any way they can, they’re in business to make money. A few grab-and-dash bottles of liquor a day and their margins take a nose dive. QFC needs to remain profitable, or the store will definitely close.

    • Grocery stores are a community service AND they are in business to make money. There is a balance between making money and not driving customers away. The Safeway on 15th seems to avoid these issues. Maybe because they are stand alone stores with a parking lot? I used to do major shopping at QFC and hit Safeway up for the sales. These last couple years, the opposite.

    • The Sketchway on 15th closes the doors facing Kaiser Permanente at dark as well – same as these two QFC did each night. I worked at a grocery store in high school long ago, and we also closed one of our entrances. It’s a simple loss prevention measure. Permanently closing them makes sense if shoplifting is a problem.

  6. 25 years ago when I had a four-year-old who needed to use the restroom at the fairly new Harvard Market QFC. We waited and waited because it was occupied. When I finally knocked on the door after 10-15 minutes a couple emerged who had just shot up drugs and left paraphernalia in the restroom. The problems on Broadway and around Capitol Hill have been going on for decades and there are simply not enough consequences for this type of behavior. I can’t stand QFC but honestly they are the victims here. My guess is there are simply no severe consequences for shoplifting and I’ve known many of the checkers for a very long time and they report it is thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars that is shoplifted every day.

    • Now that the back door at the Broadway Market is closed, I assume the check-out lanes near there will also be closed. This will cause more lines and congestion at the main check-out area, which are already very slow because of lack of staffing at the registers and often no bagging people to assist the checker. Does QFC management care? No!

      I will be shopping at the Whole Foods at Broadway/Madison when it opens (and maybe the new market at the light rail station when it opens), and QFC will lose a long-time customer. I can hardly wait to make this change, even though it will be less convenient for me.

  7. QFC isn’t a favorite, but it pains me to see that they feel they have to make it more difficult and inconvenient for customers to use the store just to try to control the losses from theft. Like some of you point out, this goes much beyond retail problems into our society’s troubles with poor, homeless, and mentally ill people. It’s unlikely that QFC has a way to get more creative and resourceful outside of closing and policing, so, as has been mentioned, one of the stores might close sometime. They’ve removed the seating area in the Harvard Market location when it turned into a hangout where people spent many hours but no money, but the problems continue right in front and all around. With the recent influx of homeless and “traveling people” on 15th Avenue, it’s no better up there, but at least that QFC has only one door which can’t be closed, and the long-time Real Change vendor in front is the kind of guy who keeps problems down and deters difficult people.
    What can a grocery store consumer do to make things better, not worse?

    • Well, clearly they need to install a moat. That’s the next step in the castling of Capitol Hill. Haves vs. Have Nots. Also, there will be no data released on current thefts compared to those after the door is closed. It may just move the theft to other methods or more brazen methods. And they still need security on the pharmacy side even if there is no door there. They rented out the whole place, taking over the Fred Meyer space (parent company also Kroger). They can close that back door if they want, but it won’t stop all the issues. Maybe if they partnered more with community organizations. What does Kroger do for charity locally that could help alleviate some of these issues? They can’t fix everything, but there’s just no community feel. Just turn the whole thing into an Automat with Robocops. That’s the future apparently.

  8. I never used that entrance at the Harvard Market one anyway – you practically had to wade through panhandlers and druggies on the sidewalk there to get to it.

  9. As someone who actually worked for one of the uniform security companies that QFC hired to try and address this problem in the last 6 years… it’s about time. The layout of this store made it VERY easy to evade staff and steal to their heart’s content. We are talking about $1000s each night in lost merchandise (not even including alcohol) and exposing their staff and other customers to conflict, and unsanitary conditions. This particular entrance was a nightmare for us because the solid wall blocked all line of sight from the store level and it was not uncommon for people to use the outside stairs as a bathroom as well. It was unusual if we didn’t have a fight or some sort of drug problem outside this door EVERY NIGHT.

    FYI I do think a LOT more needs to be done to help these people in crisis and I was and still am totally disgusted with how little we do to actually help these people.

    • I appreciate the compassion of the comments on here, I also feel really strongly about helping with the homelessness problem in positive ways for those that need help.

      However what you don’t often see in comments on here are people who work in places like QFC and shops on the hill that are being paid often times very little to do their job and manage the city’s homelessness issue. I work in coffee and live here, and while I am sensitive to the needs of the homeless and the community at large the employees of stores on the hill are exposed to a lot and often forgotten.

      I used that entrance a lot, and far too often I saw employees given a lot of shit and be put in uncomfortable, sometimes dangerous situations with someone who was not in their right mind or obviously extremely defensive while trying to get away in the act of shoplifting. The layout makes this worse, for sure, but I’m glad that this is one less place for employees to be cornered by people they are forced to confront.

  10. QFC is a business. They do what they need to to protect inventory and their business – it’s not their job to babysit Seattle’s homeless population. I avoid both of those Broadway stores because there is constantly something going on – mental distress, shoplifting, pooping on the floor (seriously), screaming, yelling, fights, etc. Seattle needs to get its act together, and commenters need to stop blaming businesses for doing what they are here for – delivering goods and services.

    • Well said! Unless it’s absolutely necessary we no longer grocery shop on Capitol Hill after living here for over 35 years. It is just too miserable.

    • To me, it’s not that simple. Businesses take money from a community and provide goods and/or services. Not specifically just Kroger, but businesses in general have the potential to do more good in the communities in which they exist. And local law enforcement and government has a responsibility to help in creating safe environments for patrons and business owners. Commerce is not divorced from everyday realities. Back to the Broadway Market QFC, they chose to take over that entire space in which divided up stores had failed owing to changes in the economy. It’s an incredibly awkward space to monitor security-wise. It had also been an issue when Fred Meyer was on the two floors and you could exit the top floor of Fred Meyer carrying goods as you went to the bottom floor. But now it’s just an awfully organized space owing to what the building had been. More businesses need to get involved in the community and push for real changes. While there may not be immediate direct benefit in their exact locations, it can help in the long term. Or look at it from a plainly capitalist point of view and just give up.

  11. It’s not just the Capitol Hill QFC – the Rainier QFC had signs posted saying that they’re closing one of their entrances too, effective 1/28.

    It’s hard to hold this against QFC, so long as they’re abiding by Fire Code. After giving the code a quick read, I’m not so sure they are. [1]

    Businesses can annoy their customers as much as they want, but history is full of businesses who thought they were within their rights to chain doors shut etc for security reasons, and the results can be grim.

    Quality Fire Catastrophe, anyone?


    • All they have to do is make it a fire exit and problem solved. They can leave them locked from the outside and put panic bars on the inside.

    • What would that solve? Why would someone bolting with a bottle of booze (or whatever else they were stealing) care if the fire alarm sounds? Shoplifters run OUT of the store, not in.

  12. I think QFC’s Feng shui and layout is super off. Why close entrances completely instead of trying improved lighting on Harvard and redesign? When these recent remodel happenings were going on at both locations I thought surely they were going to make improvements but instead it feels more chaotic at checkout and entrance/exits. The only thing that got nicer is the bulk section at Broadway market. Personally my favorite entrance and check out is the library one but I shop more often at the Harvard Market at Pike and I’ve often thought that the side of the store on Harvard could be much improved with a lot of windows and glass doors that provide street visibility and bright lighting with registers right by the door. Even some seating for people to sit and drink coffee or eat deli food would be comfortable and help that entire side of the block feel brighter and healthier.

    • You suggest some seating for people to drink their coffee and eat things from the deli. And who do you think would end up sitting here? Not the patrons of a quaint Parisian cafe. The Harvard Market QFC took out their tables, because their customers didn’t sit there. We obviously have a significant homeless problem to solve. I don’t see it as QFC’s responsibility more than any other area business.

  13. As a presence in the community, the problem with the unhoused, with drug addicts, with the mentally ill in Seattle is most certainly QFC’s problem. And It is the problem not only of those who shop there, but of everyone who lives in the city of Seattle. The more money that comes into the city, the bigger the problem will become. You can lock yourselves away in your condos, lock all but the front doors of your businesses, and write comments on blogs until you’re blue in the face, but until you see yourselves as a community — and see these issues as issues that need to be solved by the community as a whole, with both compassion and an understanding of what caused the problems in the first place — there will be no solution.

    “By revenue, Kroger is the third-largest retailer in the world and the largest grocery retailer in the U.S. It reported total sales of $108.5 billion for fiscal year 2014. Kroger operates 2,625 supermarkets and multi-department stores, 782 small-format convenience stores, and 326 jewelry stores. It has a market capitalization of $40.4 billion.” And their solution to a theft problem is to lock a door that provides easy access and a sense of community to its shoppers. Open the door and sit down with other community members to find REAL SOLUTIONS to the problems that are confronting the community as a whole, and then invest emotionally and financially in solving those problems.

    • Not to take a personal shot, but your comment is ridiculous. Do you honestly think the homeless considers themselves a part of our “community”? Cause I, as part of the “community” for over 10 years have never vandalized other people’s buildings, never thrown needles in bushes or bathrooms, never stolen from my neighbor, or pull my pants down in the middle of the sidewalk and pissed. I’m sorry, but I’m tired that because I have a well paying job I’m the bad guy, and we need to continue to coddle and appease the homeless who continue to take and take and take without any consideration for the “community”.

      Case in point, I use to volunteer for the Capitol Hill cleanup in the summer. My friends and I would spend the morning picking up trash and liter throughout the neighborhood, sometimes cleaning up entire heaps left by the homeless. Afterwards, we would head back to Cal Anderson for pizza for the volunteers. Do you know who was always eating when we got to the park? A line of homeless people grabbing free food (the volunteers didn’t have the nerve to say no). We literally spent hours cleaning up their mess to come back to see them eating food for volunteers. That is how I will always see the homeless problem in Seattle.

    • @ Dan

      As a whole, I can’t speak for the people who are living on the streets to say whether they feel they are a part of the community, or not. I suspect they are not given much *reason* to feel a part of it. But I have known many people who were unhoused, who were using drugs, and who were suffering from mental illness (some who were dealing with all three) over the course of nearly 25 years living in Seattle (mostly on Capitol Hill). To me they were, and still are, very much a part of the community. I befriended them (though many rebuffed my attentions) and spoke with them about the issues they were confronting, and helped where and whenever I could (though not nearly often enough). I was no saint, but I saw them as human.

      When you say you’ve never done things like vandalize others’ buildings, thrown needles in bushes or bathrooms, or pulled down your pants to urinate on the sidewalk, it is because you have a roof over your head with indoor plumbing, and you’re not suffering from drug addition or mental illness (or perhaps even just the frustration of sleeping on cold sidewalks, not knowing where your next meal is coming from, not finding any sharps disposal containers, or public restrooms available to you). I am personally grateful that I have never had to suffer these conditions, but not all of us are so lucky. I do know that I have had many great opportunities in this life that many others have not been given and I feel it would be shameful for me to treat others with the kind of disregard and disdain with which I see those living on the streets being treated. These are not “homeless people,” “drug-addicts,” or “crazy people,” they are human beings who, despite what we may think, are suffering, and suffering greatly.

      All I was saying in my original comment is that, until people work together as communities to figure out why we are all in the situation we are in, there will be no solution. We can no longer afford to look only at what to do about the consequences of the situation, we have to look deeper into what it is in our society that is *causing* the situation. And I am a firm believer that it begins with a clear-headed commitment to actually want to change the situation, and then to act upon that decision to create change. As a city (as a country) we need to take the personal responsibility to reexamine our political and economic structure, redefine our priorities, and redirect our focus back to a personal level of caring and understanding.

      I’m really sorry to hear about your bad experiences, Dan. And it’s a striking image that you present: we clean up your mess and then you eat the food we are offered for our services. Not to take a personal shot, but might I suggest volunteering to clean up the neighborhood out of the goodness of your heart and then offering *all* of the free pizza to those who are hungry. And while they’re eating, talk to them — engage them in conversation, ask how their day is going, offer a hug. Many people who live on the streets are hungry not only for food, but for human interaction and affection. (And though some will rebuff your attentions, don’t take it personally, as many of them are suffering for reasons beyond your comprehension, and often beyond their own.) While you’re watching them eat, take a look at the pizza, think about how good it looks and how good it would taste if you could have some. Think about how that must feel 24/7. And then recall that you can afford to go get pizza anytime you want it. Be grateful for that. And be grateful to those who forked over the money for the pizza to feed those who are less fortunate than yourself. Be grateful that you live in a kind and compassionate community. That what you are doing is the decent, humane thing to do.

      We need to think before we speak because we are talking about others’ lives; no matter how worthless, dangerous, filthy, or repugnant you may personally find the people who are living on the streets, first and foremost, they are human beings.

    • @ SMAJ: There are feeding programs in Seattle that are available 3 times a day, 7 days a week. If homeless people go hungry, they have only themselves to blame.

    • It’s quite interesting that this topic has generated so many comments. I think it’s because many people are fed up with the negative impacts the homeless have on our city.

    • @SMAJ

      You missed the point in my example. I could care less about the pizza, I bet 99% of the people who volunteer for the Capitol Hill do/did it cause we wanted to have a positive impact on the “community”. However, my irritation comes from the fact that we just spent the morning picking up the trash and needles that was left wherever the homeless felt convenient, is it so much to seek an ounce of common courtesy. I realized this is a useless search as things like courtesy don’t register to the homeless. Hey we just spent the morning cleaning up your mess but please feel free to continue to take whatever you want.

      If someone you cared about told you they were in a relationship with someone who’s on drugs, does not take personal accountability for themselves or their actions, steals, thinks its okay to do whatever they want without repercussions or consequences and continuously asks for money, and when you give them money they want more, I would presume if you cared about this person you’d be like “yo, what are you doing in this relationship”. I feel like that’s whats happening with the homeless in Seattle and we as a community keep digging our nails in deeper into this abusive relationship.

      I would like to see us band as a community and say “enough is enough”. As tax payers we will pay for your treatment, we will pay for your mental healthcare, we will provide shelters and beds and meal services, but if you don’t take these actions get out of our city! As part of the larger society I am willing to pay into the overall social safety net, however, at the same time, our sacrifices can’t be so a homeless person can continue to live on the streets and do drugs because any type of responsibility is too hard. At the very least can you not tag buildings that we have to spend time and money to paint over, and if we provide you trash receptacles and free trash services do you mind walking a little bit to throw your stuff away instead of just littering all over the city? Am I asking for too much?

    • @ Dan

      I wrote what I wrote because I sincerely believe the way we are going about dealing with the problems that cause folks to end up living on the streets is misguided. Seattle had a ten-year plan to end homelessness that failed miserably, and it looks like it may be another ten years before we wise up and say, we need another approach.

      I feel one of the biggest hurdles we need to get over is the idea of “us and them.” It’s not what WE can do to solve THEIR problems. It’s what we need to do as a community to solve OUR problems — one of those problems being that many of us are living on the streets. How did they get there? What is it that we are doing in the way we have structured our society, and the way in which we live our lives, that is causing a surge of human beings to end up living on the streets.

      And until there is a shift in our thinking, a shift in the entire paradigm of the way we think about the unhoused and vulnerable among us, I don’t believe any significant change is going to take place. But I am hopeful that a community approach can work.

      The negative way we think about the people who are suffering on the streets is apparent in our language. You said, “our sacrifices can’t be so a homeless person can continue to live on the streets and do drugs because any type of responsibility is too hard.” I can pretty much guarantee you that if you were suffering from severe drug addiction and living/sleeping on the streets, you’d see it a little differently than a life of leisure without work or responsibility.

      And telling people that if all we are willing to do for them doesn’t work then they should get out of OUR city is the antithesis of a community approach. As I said before, we need to think before we speak. And until we find and correct those structures and behaviors that lead to this calamity, we need to dedicate ourselves to alleviating the suffering caused by the faults in our societal structure and our own personal behavior.

  14. Hmmm. Let’s see. The city invests over $60 million a year trying to help the homeless situation. There is now a committee put together to come up with some way to articulate another tax on the city’s employers to fund another $50 million more to solve homelessness. And many of you are taking QFC to task for locking a door to cut down on shoplifting. Me think your angst and anger is misplaced.

  15. The Harvard Market QFC closed their Harvard entrance yesterday, as I found out when I was going there. Now it’s become a hangout spot for a bunch of people who leer at me while I walk by, and it gives the whole area a really sketchy back-alley feeling. I’m glad this helps QFC’s own security but it sure doesn’t help with the neighborhood’s.

    • So it’s pretty much like it was before but you’re not forced to enter there at night? Sounds like an improvement to me.

    • It is way, way worse now. When it was an active entrance/exit the number of people who would hang out there was limited and the security guards got rid of the worst folks. Now there’s nothing to attrit them away.

    • Well, I don’t know what changed, but tonight there was absolutely nobody hanging out there. Maybe the problematic folks realized it’s no longer a useful hangout/panhandling spot. Maybe QFC upped security there. Either way, I guess I’m fine with it for now.

  16. The problem is closing the entrance on Harvard creates a new security issue as people are attracted to the covered area. On Sunday, there were several persons sitting on the deactivated corner smoking. Security is already lax for the larger Broadway Market and nearly impossible to patrol. I think closing this entrance is going to make Harvard less attractive for pedestrians.

    • Wait until you get old, as I am. You will find that a short block gets mighty long. And it’s 2 blocks, round trip. It adds up.

  17. I’m sorry to see the Harvard Ave. entrance closed off entirely, as I know some people will be inconvenienced by it, but I’m glad I finally can use the Broadway entrance after dark. It feels much safer and I always thought that if they wanted to have just one entry point at night (which is understandable) it should be Broadway, not Harvard.

  18. I can say this change has made the customer and the workers that work here feel A LOT more safe. Leaving at night and being yelled at by the drunk and drugged up homeless people that wait outside the Harvard exit was scary and at least now they can monitor one exit and keep it clear of that. People aren’t seeing the real picture here. THIS IS A CITY ISSUE. Make out city council work in fixing the real issues here with homelessness and I’m sure that door would open right back up….