Public safety has forced Starbucks to slowly back away from a social-justice initiative.
Starbucks has been making decisions this summer about whether to change its politically sensitive policy it took following a four-year-old racial incident.
The company previously announced that anyone could use Starbucks spaces, including restrooms and seating, regardless of if they were customers.
CEO Howard Schultz said in June that the company is reconsidering this position, and that they may limit spaces to paying customers.
“The move would reverse a policy Starbucks instituted in 2018 in the wake of the arrest of two Black men in one of its Philadelphia stores. The two men had been reported to the police by a Starbucks employee after they were denied use of the store’s bathroom and asked to leave,” says The New York Times.
Why it’s news
The decision to open up Starbucks spaces to the public has cost the company money and created safety issues that have forced them to close stores. If Starbucks does fully rescind the decision, it could mark a move away from social justice-based policy decisions.
Starbucks already closed 16 stores in July due to safety concerns and partially reversed its decision by giving its managers permission to close bathrooms at their discretion.
The open bathrooms policy has had a negative effect on dozens of Starbucks locations, with reports of rampant drug use in public bathrooms affecting operations. Schultz noted in June there was a growing “mental health crisis,” with his store managers and staff complaining about unsafe working conditions, surging assaults, and threats against several store locations.
“We have to provide a safe environment for our people and our customers. The mental health crisis in the country is severe, acute, and getting worse,” says Schultz.
Backing up a bit
Starbucks was criticized in April 2018 when two Black men were temporarily arrested for briefly loitering at a Philadelphia location. “In the wake of the arrests, Starbucks closed more than 8,000 of its U.S. stores for a day for racial-bias training for its employees. The company also made its cafe seating and restrooms open to the public,” says WHYY, a PBS/NPR affiliate.
Philadelphia city officials condemned the closing of local locations. “Starbucks don’t you dare give up on the city of Philadelphia. We are working together, making the public health of our city our number one priority. We want you here and we need you here,” said Councilmember Cherelle Parker.
“I don’t know if we can keep our bathrooms open,” says Schultz. “We have to harden our stores and provide safety for our people.”