A New Policy at Starbucks: People Can Sit Without Buying Anything

Jacey Fortin
Protestors demonstrate outside a Center City Starbucks on April 15, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Getty Images

Last month, two black men who went to a Starbucks in Philadelphia and did not buy anything were denied use of the restroom and asked to leave.

Then an employee called the police and the men were arrested, prompting protests, boycotts and accusations of racism.

Now, Starbucks has changed its policy.

On Saturday the company announced that "any customer is welcome to use Starbucks spaces, including our restrooms, cafes and patios, regardless of whether they make a purchase."

More from The New York Times:
2 Black Men Settle With Starbucks and Philadelphia Over Arrest
Starbucks Arrests, Outrageous to Some, Are Everyday Life for Others
Starbucks C.E.O. Apologizes After Arrests of 2 Black Men

It added that employees should follow established procedures for "addressing disruptive behaviors," and call 911 in the case of "immediate danger or threat" to employees or customers.

Previously it might have fallen to store managers to decide whether people could sit or use the restroom without buying anything, The Associated Press reported.

"This is now an established policy for consistency across all of our U.S. company operated stores," Haley Drage, a Starbucks spokeswoman, said on Sunday.

The men who were arrested in Philadelphia, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were waiting for another man, Andrew Yaffe, who is white, for a business meeting on April 12 when the officers arrived. Their arrest was captured in video footage that has been viewed millions of times on social media.

"What did they get called for?" Mr. Yaffe asked in the video, referring to the police. "Because there are two black guys sitting here meeting me?"

Starbucks did not press charges and the men were released hours later.

Melissa DePino tweet

After protests erupted, Starbucks apologized and Kevin R. Johnson, the company's chief executive, released a statement in which he called the arrests a "reprehensible outcome." The employee who called the police was fired.

tarbucks also announced that it would close its stores in the United States on May 29 to give anti-bias training to 175,000 employees.

The company said it had reached a "confidential financial settlement" with Mr. Nelson and Mr. Robinson. The men also reached an agreement with Philadelphia: Each accepted a symbolic $1 and agreed that the city would spend $200,000 to help young entrepreneurs.

"Since the incident in our Philadelphia store in April and the events that followed, we have committed to our partners that we would be evaluating our existing policies and practices to ensure they are clear," Ms. Drage said.

She called the new policy "a part of that commitment."