CEO Howard Schultz says Starbucks may close its bathrooms to the public, “for safety’s sake”

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Starbucks is considering closing its restrooms to the public, and reserving the toilets for latte-drinking customers.

Howard Schultz, CEO of the coffee giant, revealed the company’s intentions in a conversation with the New York Times DealBook DC’s policy forum on Thursday, citing a growing mental health problem and staff safety among the reasons for the decision.

“We serve 100 million people at Starbucks,” Schultz said. “It’s a question of security in our stores when it comes to people coming in who use our stores as a public bath.”

Providing security for Starbucks employees and customers is also important to Schultz to ensure that both groups are happy and protected, he said.

“We need to harden our stores and provide security for our people,” he told the Times. “I do not know if we can keep our bathrooms open.”

The decision would reverse a 2018 policy the company implemented that opened the seats – even the porcelain seats – to anyone after the company was battled in a public controversy following the arrest of two black men in a store in Philadelphia. The men had arrived at the store early for a business meeting. One asked to use the toilet, but was told by a manager that the toilets were only for paying customers.

The manager then approached the two men at the table to ask if she could have something to drink, but called the police two minutes later and told the authorities that there were “two gentlemen in my cafe who refuse to buy or go”.

The men settled with the city of Philadelphia, agreeing to a token payment of $ 1 each and a commitment from the city to fund $ 200,000 for a scholarship program for high school students who want to become entrepreneurs. Starbucks later announced that it had reached an agreement with the men that included an undisclosed financial settlement.

Schultz acknowledged that such a change from 2018 would be a significant cultural shift, as noted by DealBook editor Andrew Ross Sorkin.

“Starbucks is trying to solve a problem and face a problem that is the responsibility of the government,” Schultz said of possible bathroom closures.

The government that does not go up to the plate means that business leaders like him must do more to protect the people who work for them, he said.

“What I am realizing more and more is that the government is no longer going to solve any of these problems,” Schultz said. “[Business leaders] must do more for our people. “