Starbucks plans to rescind its bathroom policy that allows non-customers access to the facilities due to “safety” concerns.
Chief Executive Howard Schultz said Thursday while speaking at The Time’s DealBook D.C. policy forum that the company may rescind its open bathroom policy, citing a growing mental health problem. Schultz said it was an “issue of just safety.”
“We have to harden our stores and provide safety for our people,” Schultz said. “I don’t know if we can keep our bathrooms open.”
Starbucks began allowing non-customers to use their restrooms after the arrests of two black men inside a Philadelphia store in 2018. A Starbucks employee alerted authorities to the two men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson after they were denied use of the store’s bathroom and asked to leave. The men were meeting Andrew Yaffe, a white man, for business purposes, according to reports. Video footage of the arrests, shows Yaffe asking why police had been called.
“What did they get called for?” Yaffe asked. “Because there are two black guys sitting here meeting me?”
The company released a statement following the incident that “any customer is welcome to use Starbucks spaces, including our restrooms, cafes, and patios, regardless of whether they make a purchase.”
“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 2018. “We want you to be ‘more than.’”
A study found that implementing the policy reduced the number of customer visits. Researchers from the University of Texas and Boston College found visits to Starbucks dropped 6.8% compared to rivals.
Starbucks said the study was “inaccurate” and that “business has never been better.”
“The findings of this company-backed study are not only inaccurate but do not take into account the habits and purchasing behaviors of our more than 100 million weekly customers,” a Starbucks spokesperson said.