Starbucks to close Canadian stores to provide implicit bias training

Starbucks will close all its Canadian company-operated stores and offices for an afternoon next month to provide training about creating a "culture of warmth and belonging."

Company ordered more than 8,000 U.S. Starbucks stores closed on the afternoon of May 29

Starbucks Canada is planning store closures for part of the afternoon on June 11 for a training session to address implicit bias, according to memo sent Friday by president Michael Conway. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)

Starbucks will close all its Canadian company-operated stores and offices for an afternoon next month to provide training about creating a "culture of warmth and belonging."

The announcement comes nearly a month after the Seattle-based company publicly apologized for the arrest of two black men who had been refused permission to use the washroom of a Starbucks coffee shop in Philadelphia.

A Philadelphia police spokesman said Starbucks employees called 911 after the men refused to leave.

The company ordered more than 8,000 U.S. Starbucks stores closed on the afternoon of May 29 so that nearly 175,000 employees can receive training on unconscious bias, but said at the time it had not decided whether to follow suit in Canada.

Starbucks Canada president Michael Conway sent a memo on Friday that schedules store and office closures for part of the afternoon on June 11 for a training session to address implicit bias and promote "conscious inclusion."

"We believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect. ...We must never be complacent in our desire to be inclusive," he said in the memo.

 According to the company's website, there are more than 1,200 company-operated and licensed Starbucks locations across Canada.

The arrests prompted protests at the Starbucks and calls for a boycott.

A video shows police talking with two black men seated at a table. After a few minutes, officers handcuff the men and lead them outside as other customers say they weren't doing anything wrong. Philadelphia-area media said the two were waiting for a friend.

Philadelphia police released a recording of the call from the Starbucks employee that led to the arrests. In the recording, a woman is heard saying, "Hi, I have two gentlemen in my cafe that are refusing to make a purchase or leave." She gives the address of the Starbucks store, and the entire call lasts less than 30 seconds. In the communications between police and dispatch that were also released, someone refers to "a group of males inside causing a disturbance," and additional officers are sent.

In the week since, the men received an apology from Philadelphia's police commissioner, have met with Starbucks' apologetic CEO and have started pushing for lasting change at the coffee shop chain, including new policies on discrimination and ejecting customers.

Starbucks has said the coffee shop where the arrests occurred has a policy that restrooms are for paying customers only, but the company has no overall policy. The men's attorney, Stewart Cohen, said they were illegally profiled.