Starbucks stores to close Tuesday for anti-bias training

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Starbucks will close more than 8,000 stores nationwide on Tuesday to conduct anti-bias training, the next of many steps the company is taking to try to restore its tarnished image as a hangout where all are welcome.

The two men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks last month for allegedly trespassing, after they sat down in the store without ordering anything.

Employees at these stores around the country will participate in a program that will include videos of top Starbucks executives and board members speaking to the importance of diversity and improving as a company.

The plan covers only Starbucks-operated stores; almost all of the 7,000 Starbucks-licensed coffee shops - in places like supermarkets, hotels, and airports - are likely to remain open, the company says.

Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz, the architect of its move into a cafe format in the late 1980s, said in an open letter that the decision to call police and their subsequent arrests "were reprehensible and did not represent the company's mission and enduring values". Future trainings will address all aspects of bias and experiences. But they said they were waiting for someone else to show up for a business meeting, and it was not hard to see the real issue: they were black.

But not all Starbucks locations will close. The NAACP's Sherrilyn Ifill, who is one of Starbucks's advisors on its anti-bias training material, has previously noted that "this can't be a one-off".

Starbucks corporate officials said it will share the racial-bias curriculum with the licensed stores.

In the Philadelphia incident, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were asked to leave after one was denied access to the bathroom. The coffee chain is asking customers to behave in a way that "maintains a warm and welcoming environment".

Starbucks advises employees to consider whether they'd be disturbed by the behavior in question if it was coming from a different customer. "We've made it clear that we won't be a rubber stamp to validate their programming", McGhee said. The guidelines encourage workers to ask if they would take the considered action with any customer, to verify the perceived situation with a co-worker and to dial 911 if the situation becomes unsafe.

For four hours today, more than 170,000 Starbucks employees will set aside the Frappuccinos and espresso machines to learn how to avoid the kind of racial bias that many say led to the arrests of two African-American men for occupying a table without making a purchase.