WASHINGTON — Starbucks may consider reversing its policy to let anyone, including non-customers, use their bathrooms, according to Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz.
Schultz, a longtime Starbucks leader who rejoined the company as interim CEO in April, was chairman when the open bathroom policy was first implemented in May 2018.
The policy was introduced after the controversial arrest of two Black men at one of the company's Philadelphia locations. The men had been asked to leave a store after one was denied access to the bathroom. They were arrested by police after sitting down to wait for a business meeting. Witnesses captured the incident on video and it went viral.
At the time the policy was announced, Schultz said he didn't want the company to "become a public bathroom" but they didn't want people to feel "less than" if they were refused access.
During an appearance Thursday at The New York Times DealBook D.C. policy forum, Schultz said a growing mental health crisis was making it hard for employees to manage stores.
“We serve 100 million people at Starbucks and there is an issue of just safety in our stores, in terms of people coming in who use our stores as a public bathroom," Schultz said. "And we have to provide a safe environment for our people and our customers. The mental health crisis in the country is severe, acute and getting worse.”
"We have to harden our stores and provide safety for our people," Schultz explained. “I don’t know if we can keep our bathrooms open."