“We serve 100 million people at Starbucks,” Schultz said. “There is a security issue in our stores in terms of people using our stores as public restrooms.”
Keeping Starbucks employees and customers safe is also important to Schultz to ensure both groups are satisfied and protected, he said.
“We need to strengthen our stores and keep our employees safe,” he told The Times. “I don’t know if we can keep our bathrooms open.”
The decision would overturn a 2018 policy implemented by the company that opened its seats — even porcelain ones — to anyone after the company was embroiled in a public controversy following the arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia store. The men had arrived at the store early for a business meeting. One of them asked to use the restroom, but was told by a manager that the restroom was for paying customers only.
The manager then approached the two men at the table to ask if she could get something to drink, but called the police two minutes later, telling authorities that there were “two gentlemen in my cafe who refuse to make a purchase or leave”.
The men settled with the city of Philadelphia, agreeing to a token payment of $1 each and a commitment from the city to fund $200,000 for a scholarship program for high school students aspiring to become entrepreneurs. Starbucks later announced that it had reached an agreement with the men that included an undisclosed financial settlement.
Schultz acknowledged that such a change from 2018 would be a significant culture shift, as noted by DealBook editor Andrew Ross Sorkin.
“Starbucks is trying to solve a problem and deal with a problem that is the responsibility of the government,” Schultz said of possible bathroom closures.
The government is not intervening, which means business leaders like him must do more to protect the people who work for them, he said.
“What I realize more and more is that the government is not going to solve any of these problems anymore,” Schultz said. “[Business leaders] we must do more for our people.