Starbucks announced a new policy of inclusivity on Saturday that will permit anyone to sit in its cafes or use the stores’ restrooms, regardless of whether they’ve bought anything, The Associated Press reported.
The move comes weeks after one of the coffee chain’s stores in Philadelphia incited outrage for calling the police on two black men who had not made a purchase while they waited for a friend to arrive.
“We are committed to creating a culture of warmth and belonging where everyone is welcome,” the company said in a statement.
Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were arrested for “trespassing” on April 12 after a Starbucks store manager in Philadelphia called the police. Nelson said he’d asked the manager if he could use the restroom when he arrived in the cafe but was told the facilities were for paying customers only. The men said they’d been waiting for a friend to arrive when the police arrived and they were arrested ― mere minutes after they’d entered the store.
Their arrest, captured on camera, quickly became a public relations nightmare for Starbucks. Protests erupted at the Philadelphia store and demonstrators accused the cafe’s staff of racism. The manager no longer works for the company.
The company moved quickly to control the damage. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson flew to Philadelphia soon after the incident to personally meet with the two men, who later settled with the company for an undisclosed sum and free college tuition for an online program created by Starbucks for its employees. Separately, they got a symbolic $1 each from the city of Philadelphia and a pledge from officials to set up a $200,000 to promote entrepreneurship among high school students.
Johnson also announced plans to close more than 8,000 Starbucks stores in the U.S. on May 29 so workers can receive training about racial bias.
Starbucks said Saturday that going forward, its employees had been told to “consider anyone who walks into its stores a customer” ― whether or not they buy anything, reported AP.
The company noted, however, that law enforcement will be notified if a customer appears to pose a threat to safety.
Starbucks founder and chairman Howard Schultz said last week that while the company doesn’t “want to become a public bathroom... we’re going to make the right decision 100 percent of the time and give people the key.”
“We don’t want anyone at Starbucks to feel as if we are not giving access to you to the bathroom because you are less than. We want you to be more than,” Schultz said during a Thursday discussion at Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, according to Bloomberg.