Starbucks is open every day of the year, though it may sometimes alter its hours at varying locations for certain holidays. Today, on May 29, 2018, however, every single Starbucks will close its doors to customers at 2:30 p.m. local time for anti-bias training. The occasion will be referred to as “racial bias education day”, as reported by TIME. Stores will resume their normal hours tomorrow, on May 30, 2018.
So, what prompted the early closing? In April 2018, two black men, named Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, were sitting in a Starbucks store for several minutes in the Philadelphia area. The two 23-year-old entrepreneurs were at the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets, waiting for a business associate of theirs, when the store manager called police. As a result, the two men were both arrested. There did not seem to be any reasoning for the arrests, as the men sat without ordering anything. Fellow customers tried to defend the two men as they were being confronted by police, but they were still handcuffed and removed from the establishment, according to Philly.com.
Starbucks faced backlash when a video of the incident went viral. A woman named Melissa DePino posted the above video with this as a caption:
@Starbucks The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.
Prior to the manager calling the police, Robinson was denied usage of the bathroom at the Starbucks because he was not a paying customer. The NY Times has reported that Starbucks has now changed its bathroom policies and is open for all.
TIME has reported that both men settled with the city for just $1 each, but with an agreement that officials would launch a $200,000 entrepreneurship program for students.
Kevin Johnson, the CEO of Starbucks, released a statement upon settling the incident with the two victims. Johnson stated, “I want to thank Donte and Rashon for their willingness to reconcile. I welcome the opportunity to begin a relationship with them to share learnings and experiences. And Starbucks will continue to take actions that stem from this incident to repair and reaffirm our values and vision for the kind of company we want to be.”
Mayor Jim Kenney also gave a statement in regards to the settlement, saying that, “Rather than spending time, money, and resources to engage in a potentially adversarial process, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson approached the city and invited us to partner with them in an attempt to make something positive come of this. This agreement is the result of those conversations, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of this effort in the coming months and years.” Kenney said that what happen to Robinson and Nelson “appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018.”
Nelson and Robinson’s attorney, Stewart Cohen, said his clients were illegally profiled in the incident, as reported by CBS News.