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Starbucks apologizes to Black customer asked to wait outside

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Starbucks is facing another incident of alleged racial discrimination, this time in California where a Black man said he was told to leave one of the coffee chain's San Jose locations because it was overcrowded under COVID-19 restrictions. 

Bryce Ward told an ABC News affiliate that he left the store at the request of a Starbucks manager. Other customers, who were not Black, then walked into the store and were not asked to leave, KGO-TV reported. Ward, a barber from San Francisco, said the incident happened March 15 and that he believes he was asked to leave the store because he's Black.

"I was the only Black [person] in there. I don't know what was going through her mind," Ward told KGO-TV, referring to the female manager.

Ward further detailed his experience at the San Jose Starbucks in a lengthy Instagram video. Ward said a cashier asked him to wait outside for his order, but two women left the store before he could exit. With the women departing, Ward said the Starbucks did not have so many customers that his presence would exceed the store's capacity limit, so he remained inside the Starbucks. It was then, Ward said, that a manager yelled at him to leave the store. 

"I'm not saying she hunted me down because I'm Black, I'm just stating the facts," Ward said in the video, adding that he demanded a refund. "This is Starbucks. You guys are supposed to take pride in how you treat your customers."

Ward told CBS MoneyWatch that he spent the morning of March 15 exercising at a San Jose fitness center and decided to grab a Grande Caramel Apple Spice after his workout. Ward said that was the first time he visited the San Jose location. 

Ward left his phone number with another manager at the store after voicing his complaint. A district manager called him that night to talk about the incident, he said. The district manager asked Ward what he wanted done about the situation and he replied "I just don't want this to happen to someone else because right now I'm hurt."

Starbucks apologized to him for his experience, but a Starbucks spokesman told CBS MoneyWatch that the manager's request that he leave the store was not racially motivated. Starbucks acknowledges that the store's employees could have done a better job at thoughtfully explaining the capacity limit to Ward, the spokesman said.

The Starbucks spokesman said the company did an internal investigation and found that employees also asked others customers to wait outside. The spokesman said he wasn't sure if the other customers exited when asked. 

Since the incident, the San Jose Starbucks employees have been retrained on "how to approach the situation differently, especially when asking people to leave for capacity limits," the spokesman told CBS MoneyWatch in a statement. 

Is Starbucks' racial bias training enough? 07:41

In 2018, Starbucks apologized to a customer for a reported incident at a store in La Cañada Flintridge, California. A Starbucks staffer allegedly wrote "Beaner" — a demeaning word used to describe Latinos — on his cup, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

A month prior to that incident, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson apologized to two Black men after they were arrested while inside a Starbucks location in Philadelphia. Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson said they arrived early at the Starbucks before a business meeting but police officers showed up shortly thereafter. Starbucks has since retrained its staff on how to eliminate racial bias, the company said.

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