Starbucks said Tuesday it will close all of its more than 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores on May 29 to educate employees about racial bias in an attempt to prevent more acts of discrimination.
The announcement was made days after the arrest of two African American men who sat in a Starbucks in the northeastern city of Philadelphia. The arrests were captured on video and widely circulated on social media, triggering protests and calls for a boycott.
“I’ve spent the past 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,” said CEO Kevin Johnson. “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.”
The coffeehouse chain, which is also closing its corporate offices on May 29, said a curriculum is being developed for its 175,000 employees, with assistance from several racial bias training experts. They include Equal Justice Initiative executive director Bryan Stevenson, NAACP Legal Defense Education Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill and former attorney general Eric Holder.
The two men who were arrested were later released because of a lack of evidence that a crime had been committed. Philadelphia media reported the men had been waiting for a friend at the time of their arrests.
Starbucks said the employee who called police on the men no longer worked at that location.
Johnson, who met with the men, called the arrests “reprehensible.”