Toronto

New washroom policy is 'positive 1st step,' but Starbucks needs to do more, York University prof says

A York University professor is haling Starbucks’s plan to open its washrooms to the non-paying public as a good first step, while noting it could serve as a springboard for discussion on the issue of public washroom access in Toronto.

‘They’re really in a position to set a good example for the rest of the industry,’ says Sheila Cavanagh

York University professor Sheila Cavanagh says Starbucks's decision to open washrooms to the public is a positive first step but the international coffee chain needs to do more. (CBC)

A York University professor is haling Starbucks's plan to open its washrooms to the non-paying public as a good first step, while noting it could serve as a springboard for discussion on the issue of public washroom access in Toronto.

Sheila Cavanagh said store owners need to remember that everyone has a right to access a bathroom whether or not they are a paying customer.

The decision announced earlier this month by Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz follows the arrests last month of two black men at a coffee shop in Philadelphia.

Police were called after they were accused by a store manager of trespassing because they were waiting for a friend without buying anything. One of the two men was also denied access to the store's washroom after being told he wasn't a paying customer.

"It's definitely a positive step forward. Certainly everyone needs to be able to access a public bathroom in a public space," Cavanagh told CBC Toronto.

"I think it's a very good, positive first step, although it is a first step."

Rashon Nelson, left, and Donte Robinson, right, both 23, settled with Philadelphia weeks after being arrested at a local Starbucks. (Jacqueline Larma/Associated Press)

Cavanagh said Starbucks definitely needs to do more and she's happy to see that the international coffee chain is also implementing mandatory anti-racist training for their employees.

"I really hope that other corporations will take Starbucks's lead and make sure that they don't restrict access to public bathrooms to paying customers only," Cavanagh said.

"Starbucks is a very wealthy corporation; they're really in a position to set a good example for the rest of the industry."

When asked by CBC News if the new policy would be implemented in its Canadian stores, a Starbucks Canada communications manager said in an email that the company is reviewing the washroom policy as part of a 90-day review.

Shaunt Tchakmak operates Antikka Café and Records with his brother. They have made the decision to open up their Queen Street West store's washroom to anyone who wishes to use it. (CBC)

Shaunt Tchakmak who operates Antikka Café and Records with his brother says they have taken a decision to open up the store's washroom to anyone who wishes to use it.

"It's something that we find to be just a normal thing. It doesn't affect our business in a negative way," Tchakmak told CBC Toronto.

"If I was a customer, that's what I would expect from businesses that I walk into, so we just want to treat the customers the same way."

Tchakmak also sees a benefit to opening up the washroom at their Queen Street West location to the public. He strongly believes this could lead to an increase in their customer base.

"They come, they browse, they check it out. That's always cool," he said.

Starbucks previously had "a loose policy" that washrooms were for paying customers, but it was "really the judgment of the manager," Schultz when he announced the new policy.

"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," he said.

With files from Talia Ricci