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Starbucks chairman: Our bathrooms are now open to everyone, not just customers

The new policy is the latest step by the company, which took heat after two black men were arrested for using the bathroom in a Starbucks store.
by Eun Kyung Kim / / Source: TODAY

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Starbucks will allow anyone to use its bathrooms, whether they’re paying customers or not, the company said Thursday in the latest effort to calm the uproar over the treatment of two black men in a Philadelphia store last month.

Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz announced the policy change while speaking to the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank that was giving him a business leadership award.

Starbucks chairman says store bathrooms will be open to anyone
Starbucks bathrooms will be open to anyone, not just customers, the company's executive chairman said. TODAY

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

The comments come weeks after two black men were arrested for trespassing after using the bathroom in a Philadelphia Starbucks store. The store manager called the police while the men sat a table waiting for a business associate to arrive.

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A video of the incident went viral, provoking outrage and accusations of racism against police and the company.

Schultz said that Starbucks had a “loose policy” of only allowing customers to use its bathrooms but that the decision ultimately rested with each store manager.

“We were absolutely wrong in every way, the policy and the decision (the manager) made,” Schultz said Thursday. “It’s the company that’s responsible.”

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, the two 23-year-old men who were arrested, have since settled with the city of Philadelphia over the incident. Each will be paid $1, while the city will work with a nonprofit organization to create a $200,000 fund to help young entrepreneurs in Philadelphia.

Later this month, Starbucks will close more than 8,000 stores to conduct racial bias training. Shultz said the May 29 session will touch on “one of the most systemic subjects and issues facing our country.”

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