Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 28° Partly Cloudy
News >  Business

Starbucks tells employees: Let anyone use the restroom

UPDATED: Fri., May 11, 2018

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the Starbucks annual shareholders meeting March 22, 2017, in Seattle. Schultz says the company will now allow people to use bathrooms at its coffee shops even if they don’t buy anything, as it continues to take a closer look at its operations following the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia shop. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the Starbucks annual shareholders meeting March 22, 2017, in Seattle. Schultz says the company will now allow people to use bathrooms at its coffee shops even if they don’t buy anything, as it continues to take a closer look at its operations following the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia shop. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Starbucks has told employees to let anyone use the restroom, even if they haven’t bought anything, as it reviews its policies and tries to restore its reputation after the arrest of two black men at a coffee shop in Philadelphia.

The coffee chain said it wants all customers who come in “to feel welcome” and it’s conducting a three-month review of its guidelines. That follows comments from Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz who said he didn’t want people to feel “less than” if they were refused access.

“We don’t want to become a public bathroom,” Schultz said, “but we’re going to make the right decision a hundred percent of the time and give people the key.”

The arrests in Philadelphia were a major embarrassment for Starbucks, which has long projected itself as a socially conscious company and has promoted its stores as a place for people to gather outside of their homes and offices.

Schultz said Starbucks had maintained a “loose policy” on bathroom access, though decisions were ultimately left up to store managers on whether someone could use them. At the Philadelphia store where the two men were arrested April 12, it was policy to ask people who hadn’t bought anything to leave.

The men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were asked to leave after one was denied access to the bathroom. They were arrested by police minutes after they sat down to await a business meeting they had scheduled. The incident was captured by people using cellphones and went viral, leading to protests.

Nelson and Robinson settled with Starbucks earlier this month for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free college education. Separately, they reached a deal with Philadelphia for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from city officials to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.

The company plans to close more than 8,000 of its U.S. stores on the afternoon of May 29 for racial-bias training for its employees.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.