Starbucks overhauls bathroom policy after racial firestorm

Starbucks is opening its bathrooms to everyone regardless of whether they've bought anything following the arrest last month of two African American men at one of its coffee shops in Philadelphia.

Chairman Howard Schultz said he feels employees can make the "right decision a hundred percent of the time," if that choice is removed at the store level.

One of the men arrested on April 12 was denied use of a bathroom before sitting down to await a business meeting at a Philadelphia Starbucks. The store manager called 911 to report them for refusing to leave after using the store's restroom without making a purchase. The two men were arrested minutes later. 

"We don't want to become a public bathroom, but we're going to make the right decision a hundred percent of the time and give people the key, because we don't want anyone at Starbucks to feel as if we are not giving access to you to the bathroom because you are less than," Schultz said at the Washington think-tank Atlantic Council, according to the New York Daily News

The backlash from the incident -- which has sparked protests and apologies from its CEO -- caused the company's consumer perception to drop to its lowest since November 2015, when the chain got criticized for replacing a symbol-filled holiday cup with a simple red design, according to YouGov BrandIndex.

Starbucks said it will close all of its stores on May 29 for racial bias training, which could cost the company about $7 million in lost sales. 

Schultz, speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said Starbucks had a "loose policy" on bathroom use, The Washington, The Seattle Times, and other media outlets reported.

The Role and Responsibility of a Global Company by AtlanticCouncil on YouTube