Starbucks has adopted an open-bathroom policy following the arrest last month of two African American men at a coffee shop in Philadelphia.
Chairman Howard Schultz says he doesn't want the company to become a public bathroom, but feels employees can make the "right decision 100 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. He and his partner sat down to await a business meeting they had scheduled at the store, but were arrested minutes later by police.
The incident was captured by people using cell phones and it went viral.
The arrest of Rashon Nelson, along with his childhood friend and business partner, Donte Robinson, set off a firestorm for the company, which will shut down more than 8,000 of its U.S. stores on the afternoon of May 29 to instruct 175,000 employees how to better recognize unconscious bias.
Access to store bathrooms, for which Schultz said Starbucks had maintained a "loose policy," came into even sharper focus after another video, taken in January, emerged. The video shows a black man claiming he was denied access to a bathroom at a Starbucks in California while a white man was allowed entry. Neither man had made a purchase, according to the video shot by Brandon Ward, which is posted on his Facebook page.
Schultz, speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington on Thursday, said previous policy required a purchase, but that the decision was ultimately left with store managers, The Washington, The Seattle Times, and other media outlets reported.
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"We don't want to become a public bathroom, but we're going to make the right decision 100 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. We want you to be more than," Schultz said, according to a transcript posted by the Atlantic Council.
Starbucks' policies are under 90-day review but that over the past couple weeks they have urged employees to make customers feel welcome, the company said Friday.
"If someone needs to use the restroom, please let them, but if the safety of that customer, other customers or partners is in jeopardy, use your 911 quick reference guide for guidance on any action to be taken," Starbucks said.
The arrests in Philadelphia were a major embarrassment for Starbucks, which has long projected itself as a socially conscious company.
Nelson and Robinson settled with Starbucks earlier this month for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free college education. Separately, they reached a deal with Philadelphia for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from city officials to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.