Starbucks to close US stores for bias training on Tuesday

Starbucks will close all of its more than 8,000 U.S. stores for a portion of Tuesday afternoon so its employees can undergo racial bias and sensitivity training in the wake of a confrontation with two black customers at one of its Philadelphia locations.

The Seattle-based coffeehouse chain said it consulted with both national and local experts to develop the curriculum for the training program, which will seek to help employees identify and overcome biases in the workplace. The training will include a documentary film and video messages from Starbucks executives and rapper Common, as well as a discussion among store employees about their own experiences with bias.

The entire session will last four hours, the Associated Press reported. Roughly 175,000 Starbucks employees will participate.

“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement. “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.”

Starbucks drew national criticism in April after two men, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, were arrested at a Starbucks store in Philadelphia. Management called the police because the two men, who were meeting up with a friend, stayed in the store without making a purchase.

The company later publicly apologized for the incident and reached a financial settlement with the two men. In addition to announcing the racial sensitivity training, Starbucks also overhauled its store policy to prevent similar incidents.

The retailer said earlier this month that all guests would be permitted to stay in its stores and use its restrooms regardless of whether they had purchased an item, later clarifying that it would not permit sleeping, disruptive behavior or substance use at its locations.