PCHR to Investigate More Allegations of Racial Bias at Rittenhouse Starbucks

The move by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations is part of the city’s broader response to the arrest of two black men at the store last week.

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As part of an official update on its response to an incident last week that resulted in the arrest of two black men at the Starbucks on 18th and Spruce streets, the city has confirmed that the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations is looking into additional allegations of racial bias at the location that have recently come to light.

If you haven’t been paying attention to this still-developing story, here’s a quick refresher: The two men were waiting for a friend at the Rittenhouse location of the coffee chain on Thursday when one of them asked to use the restroom. Because the men had not ordered anything, the manager of the Starbucks refused access. When the men declined to leave the establishment, the police were called and both left in cuffs.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called the arrests “reprehensible” in a Monday appearance on ABC’s Good Morning, America and vowed that management would receive further training on “unconscious bias.” Johnson also met with Mayor Kenney on Monday as demonstrators overwhelmed the store before it ultimately closed around midday.

After that meeting, Kenney released the following statement:

“I believe Starbucks will cooperate fully with our probes of the matter, particularly the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations’ review of Starbucks’ policies. All parties agree that the outcome of this incident was extremely unfortunate and that’s why we are reviewing the incident seriously.

“This is not just a Starbucks issue. This is a societal issue. People can react differently to others based on skin color, and that is wrong. We have work to do, and we need to do so productively.”

The city says PCHR will also examine the company’s policies to determine whether they are enforced uniformly, as well as how much discretion is left to individual employees. PCHR director Rue Landau was not immediately available for comment.

The police department is continuing its review of the incident, although Mayor Kenney and Commissioner Richard Ross have both said that the officers who arrested the men did nothing wrong. The Police Advisory Commission will assess general practices involved in this specific incident and in the 9th District, along with comparing PPD standards to national best practices.