Starbucks flushes old policy away, opens bathrooms to all

Executive Chairman of Starbucks Corporation Howard Schultz participates in a discussion at the Atlantic Council

Starbucks will have an open-door bathroom policy, a decision that marks one of the first initiatives the restaurant will implement after being widely criticized following the arrest of two black men at its Philadelphia store.

The attorney for the men, Lauren Wimmer, Esq., said they had been waiting at the coffee shop for less than 15 minutes, for a third person to arrive for a business meeting over a real estate project. One had asked to use the bathroom and was told restrooms were only for paying customers.

Schultz explained that the chain's "loose policy" until now has been - theoretically, at least - that "you should be able to use the bathroom if you buy something", but then added that it's "really the judgement of the manager", and the manager of the Philly store, in particular, "made a bad decision to call the police". He added, "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.' We want you to be 'more than'".

The episode sparked a national uproar - and a public-relations nightmare for the Seattle-based chain.

Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson were accused of trespassing last month after the manager said the two men refused to buy anything or leave the store. Schultz said the sessions will kick off a change to the way employees are trained.

The arrest, which quickly went viral, prompted Starbucks to close 8,000 US locations for the afternoon on May 29 to "conduct racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores". Schultz revealed the revision to the previously "loose" bathroom policy at an Atlantic Council conference meeting held Thursday in Washington D.C. "And it's really the judgment of the manager".

Starbucks bathrooms will soon be open to anyone who needs them, not just customers.