- Starbucks is reconsidering its open bathroom policy, CEO Howard Schultz said on Thursday.
- He said it’s due to a growing mental health problem that makes store management challenging.
- Starbucks instituted a policy in 2018 that allows anyone, even non-customers, to use its bathrooms.
Starbucks is rethinking its open bathroom policy, CEO Howard Schultz said at The bioreports DealBook DC policy forum on Thursday.
Schultz told the forum that the consideration is due to growing mental health issues that make it challenging for store employees to manage outlets, The Times reported. Schultz said it was an “issue of just safety,” adding that the coffee chain may have to limit the number of non-customers who enter its outlets.
“We have to harden our stores and provide safety for our people,” Schultz said, according to The Times. “I don’t know if we can keep our bathrooms open.”
Such a development would be a reversal of Starbucks’ 2018 policy that allows anyone — including individuals who hadn’t bought anything in the store — to use its bathrooms.
The policy was instituted after two Black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks outlet in April 2018. The men, who hadn’t bought anything, refused to leave after they were denied use of the bathroom. In May 2018, they settled with the coffee chain for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free college education.
After the incident, then-CEO Kevin Johnson was forced to apologize and all US stores were closed for a day on May 29 for staff to attend anti-bias training.
“We don’t want to become a public bathroom, but we’re going to make the right decision 100% 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 in May 2018. He was the executive chairman of Starbucks at the time of the incident.