Why Starbucks' Bathrooms May No Longer Be Open To The Public

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says that the coffee retailer is considering a customer's-only bathroom policy again (via The New York Times). Starbucks changed its bathroom policy in 2018, allowing bathroom usage without first making a purchase. This change came after a racially charged incident occurred at one of their Philadelphia locations.

CNN reported that two black men asked to use the bathroom at a downtown Philadelphia Starbucks but were denied permission because they had not made a purchase. Afterward, they took a seat to wait for a friend, and after being asked to leave and refusing, a Starbucks employee called the police. The men were arrested on grounds of trespassing, though no charges were ever filed. Starbucks changed its bathroom policy following the incident and opened them to all persons without having to make a purchase. At the time, the company said this was done to remove any possible biases and make Starbucks a safe place for all visitors.

"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," Schultz, who was then executive chairman, said at that time, per The New York Times.

That policy is apparently now being reconsidered by the company according to Schultz.

Safety concerns may influence bathroom policies

Schultz said that the current bathroom policy is being reconsidered due to safety concerns for employees while speaking at The New York Times DealBook D.C. policy forum.

"We have to harden our stores and provide safety for our people. I don't know if we can keep our bathrooms open," said Schultz.

He says that current mental health problems are making it difficult for employees to manage stores (via CNN). These problems have apparently brought the current bathroom policy under examination by the company. Schultz said that he thinks limiting the number of non-customers allowed in the stores may be necessary to address safety concerns, according to The New York Times. This was the first time Schultz addressed the bathroom policy since returning to the company as CEO back in April.

Statista reports that Starbucks has more than 15,000 retail locations throughout the United States that may be affected by the policy change. This comes amid the movement among Starbucks employees at various locations for unionization, and alleged counter-unionization tactics employed by Schultz and upper management.