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2018-04-17 20:05:03
Starbucks to Close 8,000 U.S. Stores for Racial-Bias Training After Arrests

Starbucks said on Tuesday that it would close its more than 8,000 stores in the United States for one day to conduct anti-bias training after two African-American men were arrested at one of its stores last week, prompting outrage.

Starbucks will close the stores May 29 to offer the training to 175,000 employees.

“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,” Kevin R. Johnson, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement announcing the training.

The two men were arrested after asking to use the restroom at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. An employee refused the request because the men had not bought anything, according to officials. The men sat down and were asked to leave, and an employee eventually called the police.

The ensuing scene was recorded in a video that has been viewed more than 10 million times on Twitter. In it, police officers appear to handcuff both men, as a third man, Andrew Yaffe, confronts them.

“But what did they do? What did they do? Someone tell me what they did,” Mr. Yaffe asks.

The arrests prompted a hashtag on social media, #BoycottStarbucks, and protests at the store, in Philadelphia’s Center City. Videos posted online show protesters chanting and holding up signs.

Two days after the episode, Starbucks apologized, and Mr. Johnson called the situation a “reprehensible outcome.”

He pledged to make “any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.”

The decision to shut all its domestic stores and provide training underscores the damage done to Starbucks’s reputation for being a socially responsible company, one that sells fair-trade coffee and promotes its stores as a meeting place. In 2015, the company was widely mocked for instructing employees to write “Race Together” on its coffee cups.

“This move goes far beyond the playbook” of what a normal crisis response would be, said Andrew D. Gilman, the president of CommCore Consulting Group, a crisis management firm. “That’s sending a big statement.”

The training will address implicit bias, the company said on Tuesday, with input from groups including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Anti-Defamation League.

The two men were arrested on suspicion of trespassing. The prosecutor’s office in Philadelphia reviewed the case and declined to pursue charges because of “a lack of evidence that a crime was committed,” according to a spokesman.

The employee who called the police is no longer employed by Starbucks, the company confirmed on Monday.

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia police also released audio of a female caller who reported “two gentlemen at my cafe who are refusing to make a purchase or leave.”

Starbucks has closed stores for training before. In 2008, it shut 7,100 of its American locations for three hours. But that training focused more on making the perfect latte as the company struggled with sputtering sales.

In 2016, Chipotle closed its more than 2,000 restaurants for four hours for a “town hall” with employees to discuss food safety after more than 500 customers had reported illnesses that included salmonella, norovirus and E. coli.

Starbucks operates more than 9,400 stores in the United States, Canada and Latin America, according to its most recent annual filing; those stores generated $1.3 billion in revenue in the company’s most recent fiscal year. There are more than 12,000 Starbucks worldwide.

The company’s stock closed roughly flat on Tuesday afternoon.