Starbucks Will Close All 8,000 U.S. Stores for a Day of Racial-Bias Training

The coffee chain will provide anti-discrimination education to nearly 175,000 employees across the country in May.

Starbucks. iStock | bensib

Starbucks will shut down its more than 8,000 stores for one-day racial-bias training in May.

The announcement comes days after the coffee chain was catapulted into national controversy following a viral video of police arresting two Black men while they were waiting for a friend at the Starbucks location at 18th and Spruce streets in Rittenhouse.

Starbucks says it will provide racial-bias education “geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores” to nearly 175,000 employees across the country. The training will also become required for new employees, the company said.

“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 take to fix it,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement. “While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution. Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities.”

All Starbucks retail stores and corporate offices will close in the afternoon of Tuesday, May 29th. The training that will take place during that time will be designed to address “implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome,” the company said.

The lessons will be developed with guidance from outside experts, including: Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Heather McGhee, president of Demos; former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz, who also visited Philadelphia this week, said in a statement that the company will attempt to “learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer.”

Some brief background: The two Black men were arrested at the Rittenhouse Starbucks on Friday after a manager (who is no longer employed at the location) called the police because the men did not order anything and declined to leave the establishment after being asked to do so. Mayor Jim Kenney, the NAACP and more have denounced the incident and said that the arrests appear to exemplify racial discrimination. Protestors effectively shut down the location on Monday.

Stewart Cohen, the lawyer representing the men (who were not charged and have not been identified), held a brief press conference on Tuesday afternoon in which he read a joint statement on behalf of the men and Starbucks. Cohen said that the incident has been “painful” for his clients and that he hopes that the conversation with Starbucks will spark “positive social change.” He took no questions from reporters.

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations has confirmed that it is looking into reports of other allegations of racial bias at the Rittenhouse Starbucks location.

The Philadelphia Police Department is investigating the incident last week. Police commissioner Richard Ross told 6ABC this week than an officer involved in the incident “did not want to make the arrest” but maintained that “there are laws on the book that we have to follow.”

Additional reporting by Ernest Owens.