According to a press release from the company, Starbucks will close more than 8,000 stores nationwide for a half-day on May 29 for racial bias training. The announcement comes after two Black men were arrested when an employee at a Philadelphia location called the police and reported the men for trespassing for sitting in the store without buying anything. More than 8,000 stores will shut down for several hours the day after Memorial Day, and the training will address "implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion and prevent discrimination," according to the release.
Starbucks' CEO Kevin Johnson issued a statement on April 15, apologizing for the "reprehensible outcome" and insisting the company "will learn from this and be better." The coffee chain's CEO also wrote, "Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling." He also stated,
First, to once again express our deepest apologies to the two men who were arrested with a goal of doing whatever we can to make things right. Second, to let you know of our plans to investigate the pertinent facts and make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again. And third, to reassure you that Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling.
The May 29 closing is a dramatic move by the company, although it isn't the first time Starbucks has made a call to close all of its stores. In 2008, the company closed all of its locations for three hours to retrain employees. A New York Times article about the 2008 closure says it came after more than 100 stores shuttered their doors because of sales concerns. Unlike the previous closing, this training will explicitly focus on racial-bias education. The company plans to develop the training with help from the NAACP, the Equal Justice Initiative, the Anti-Defamation League and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and they will be "monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of the measures we undertake," the press release says.
“I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it,” Johnson said in the press release announcing the half-day closure. “While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution. Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities.”
A video of the incident where the two Black men were arrested shows other patrons insisting the men weren't doing anything wrong and arguing with police officers. The men were held in custody for eight hours, but not charged with a crime. A group of activists staged a protest at the Philadelphia location and demanded action from the company. After the Philadelphia incident went viral, another video about Starbucks allegedly engaging in racial profiling began to spread. In the second video, a man claims employees at a Los Angeles Starbucks location refused to give the Starbucks bathroom code even though a white-passing man was allowed to use the bathroom without making a purchase. He confronts the employees and is asked to leave. The company told Business Insider that it's currently investigating that incident as well.
According to Philadelphia news station WPVI, Johnson met with the men who were arrested Monday. Starbucks founder and executive chairman Howard Schultz also issued a statement and said the company was founded with inclusive values. "We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer," he says in the press release. The company says that Schultz, along with other Starbucks leaders, is in Philadelphia meeting with community leaders about the arrests.