Less than a week after the arrests of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks sparked outrage, another store is facing an allegation of racism. Brandon Ward, a black man, has accused a Los Angeles Starbucks of racial bias after reportedly being denied access to the bathroom.
Ward told CBS News that Starbucks employees refused to give him the entry code to the bathroom but gave it to a man named Westin, who is white, just a few minutes later. Ward filmed the incident, which took place earlier this year, and the video — which he originally posted on his Facebook page in January — indicates that both Ward and Westin requested the bathroom code while they were in line to make a purchase, but only Ward was denied.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson — who was in Philadelphia this week to meet with the city's police chief and mayor — has extended apologies to the two black customers who were arrested on Thursday, but CBS News reported that Johnson would not answer any questions about the video Ward posted. Starbucks tells Bustle in a statement that it is actively addressing the issue of racial bias in its stores:
"Please know that we take this video and the commentary around it very seriously," a Starbucks spokesperson tells Bustle. "As we announced yesterday, we are working with outside experts and community leaders to investigate our guidelines, understand and adopt best practices, and will be closing more than 8,000 stores to conduct racial-bias training."
According to ABC News, Starbucks has also promised to open an investigation into Ward's allegations.
In the video, Ward first verifies that Westin received the bathroom entry code before making a purchase. Then, Ward confronts the Starbucks employees who had refused to give him the code, at which point the store manager tells him that he needs to leave. Ward told CBS News that a security guard escorted him out of the Starbucks before police arrived.
"Once the thing happened this past weekend in Philadelphia, that's when I was like, 'Hey, the same thing happened to me,'" Ward told CBS News. "There should have been a sign right there that says whites only, because that's how they treated it."
In the video he posted, Ward asks the Starbucks employees numerous times, "Is it my skin color?" as Westin stands next to him. The store manager then tells Ward to stop recording because "this is a private business," and asks him to leave. According to USA Today, Twitter users have renewed their calls for a boycott of Starbucks after Ward's video resurfaced this week.
People felt Ward's allegations of racial bias were reminiscent of the incident that took place in Philadelphia last week. On Thursday, two black men were waiting for a friend at a Philadelphia Starbucks. They hadn't purchased anything yet because they were waiting, but they were reportedly accused of trespassing after asking to using the bathroom. They were asked to leave, but they refused, and several police officers then entered the Starbucks and arrested them.
It later came to light that the two men were real estate developers who were waiting at Starbucks for Andrew Yaffe, an investor. In the widely circulated footage of last week's incident, Yaffe arrives on the scene and tells police that the two men had been waiting for him, but he was not able to prevent their arrest. "It’s absolute discrimination,” Yaffe says in the video.
According to The Washington Post, Johnson met with the two men on Monday to offer a face-to-face apologies. The next day, Starbucks announced that it would close 8,000 stores across the U.S. for a day in May in order to engage 175,000 employees in racial bias training.
"I've been very focused on understanding what guidelines and what training ever let this happen," Johnson told Good Morning America on Monday. "What happened was wrong and we will fix it."