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Starbucks to close 8,000 U.S. stores for racial bias training in response to arrest video

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Starbucks will close more than 8,000 stores for several hours next month after a Starbucks employee called police who arrested two black men waiting at a table.

Starbucks Corp. said Tuesday it plans to close its more than 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores for several hours one day next month to conduct racial bias training for nearly 175,000 workers.

The move is the coffee chain’s latest response to the controversial arrest of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia on Thursday, with the police being called as the men waited at a table without ordering.

Starbucks said it will close its stores and Seattle corporate offices during the afternoon of May 29 “to conduct racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores.”

There are also about 5,700 Starbucks stores in the United States that are run by licensees, according to Starbucks’ most recent annual report. It wasn’t immediately clear if some or all of those stores would close for training as well. But Starbucks said it would make its training materials available to its licensee partners “for use with their employees and leadership.”

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“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 fix it,” Starbucks Chief Executive Kevin Johnson said in a statement.

During the store closures, employees “will go through a training program designed to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome,” Johnson said.

Johnson already has apologized for the incident and what he called its “reprehensible outcome,” which was captured on video by at least one customer, sparking widespread protests against Starbucks and calls for a boycott against the chain.

There are more than 25,000 Starbucks stores worldwide, and the company posted total revenue of $22.4 billion in its fiscal year ended last Oct. 1.

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Johnson previously said Starbucks’ existing “practices and training led to a bad outcome – the basis for the call to the Philadelphia Police Department was wrong. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.”

Starbucks said its new training materials would be developed with guidance from several experts in the racial bias field, including former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.

“The company’s founding values are based on humanity and inclusion,” Howard Schultz, the longtime Starbucks chief executive who is now the company’s executive chairman, said in a statement. “We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer.”

Under Schultz, Starbucks often touted its commitment to social justice, an effort that sometimes turned controversial.

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Three years ago, for instance, Starbucks tried to kickstart a national conversation on race relations and diversity by encouraging its baristas to write the words “Race Together” on customers’ cups to get its customers talking about race.

“If we just keep going about our business and ringing the Starbucks register every day and ignoring this, then I think we are, in a sense, part of the problem,” Schultz said at the time.

But the campaign came under scrutiny on social media and elsewhere when critics questioned, among other things, whether Starbucks was the appropriate place for a discussion about race.

Starbucks stock gained 40 cents to $59.83 a share Tuesday, giving the company a total market value of $84 billion.

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UPDATES:

2:10 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about Starbucks’ training plan, its past social-justice efforts and Starbucks’ stock price.

1:25 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with staff reporting and additional details about Starbucks’ training program.

This article was originally published at 11:15 a.m.

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