Still reeling from racial tension backlash from previous mistakes, Starbucks announced today that the company has created an open-bathroom policy for all of its stores after two African-American men were arrested at one of its coffee shops in Philadelphia last month. Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington yesterday, Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz said that the store’s bathrooms would now be available to anyone. Previously, the policy stated that use of the store’s bathroom required a purchase but the rule could be waived at the discretion of the store managers.
“We don’t want to become a public bathroom,” said Schultz, “but we’re going to make the right decision a 100 percent of the time and give people the key.”
A spokesperson for Starbucks states that the new policy put in place will be under a 90-day review, but the company is strongly encouraging its employees to ensure that all of their customers “feel welcome.” They have been told that if a person is in need of using the bathroom, “please let them, but if the safety of that customer, other customers or partners is in jeopardy, use your 911 quick reference guide for guidance on any action to be taken” reports NJ.com.
On April 12 of this year, Rashon Nelson and his business partner, Donte Robinson, waited for a client meeting held at a Starbucks store in Philadelphia but were arrested just minutes later despite their claims of not doing anything wrong. The incident stirred up protests and rumblings for a boycott of the franchise. In the end, Starbucks has decided to shut down over 8,000 of its stores on May 29 to teach the company’s 175,000 employees about how to identify unconscious bias. A similar event happened back in January when a video surfaced showing an African American man stating that he has been denied access to the store’s bathroom, but moments later a white man was given permission. Neither had made a purchase in the store.
While Nelson and Robinson settled with the coffee giant earlier this month, which included an offer for free college education, the two also settled with the city of Philadelphia for $1 and the city’s promise to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs, reports MSN.
While the new policy makes sense to some, others are wondering if it will only cause more problems of a different sort down the road.