Starbucks is still in damage control mode following last month’s uproar that ensued after a Philadelphia-area Starbucks refused to allow two men to use their restrooms. After much media coverage and a personal visit to the Rittenhouse Square Starbucks, Chairman Howard Schultz announced on Thursday a new corporate policy stating that all restrooms will be available to anyone wanting to use the facilities, regardless of whether they are a paying customer.
The controversy stemmed from a March incident in which two black men were told by a Starbucks employee that the restroom was for paying customers only. After sitting in the store and not ordering anything, the men were arrested for trespassing following the manager called the police. No charges were filed in the incident but the public relations damage had already been done. A customer in the store at the time took video that quickly turned viral, sparking an outrage across the country. The following days saw waves of protests and much civil unrest at the location. City officials in Philadelphia demanded action, denouncing Starbucks for their insensitivity.
Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson visited the store shortly after the incident in an attempt to meet with employees and smooth things over with the public. Leadership in Starbucks has repeatedly apologized to the men involved, while also announcing plans to provide additional racial bias sensitivity training for all of its employees. The company will close over 8,000 of its US store locations on the afternoon of May 29 to educate employees about the dangers of racial bias. Approximately 175,000 will receive the training.
Earlier this month, the two men involved in the incident received an undisclosed amount of money from Starbucks as a settlement. Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson are also being given the chance to complete their college educations at no cost to them as part of the agreement.