Starbucks changes bathroom policy after arrest debacle

A sign for Starbucks is seen on a street in New York City on May 11, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) - Visitors to Starbucks can use the store's bathrooms whether or not they have placed an order as the ubiquitous coffee chain looks to make amends.

"We don't want to become a public bathroom, but we're going to make the right decision 100 per cent of the time and give people the key," Starbucks Corp. Chairman Howard Schultz said during a Thursday (May 10) afternoon discussion at the Atlantic Council in Washington.

"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 remarks come as the coffeehouse looks to be more inclusive after the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia location last month became a flashpoint for the chain. It has since reached a settlement that includes launching a program to support young entrepreneurs, and announced that it would close more than 8,000 company-owned stores on May 29 for anti-bias training.

Schultz repeated the call for more inclusion at the 2018 Atlantic Council Distinguished Leadership Awards dinner, raising concerns about American isolationism and underscoring the civic challenges faced by corporate America.

"There are real questions and real concerns and real doubts about the strength and conviction and moral courage of the United States of America," he said. "This is not a time for isolationism, for nationalism. This is a time, as we face this crucible, for cooperation. This is not a time to build walls: This is a time to build bridges."

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