NEW YORK: Starbucks announced Tuesday that it would close all company-owned stores and corporate offices in the United States on May 29 to conduct "racial-bias education," following outrage over the arrest of two black men in one of its cafes.
It was the latest move by the CEO of Starbucks to recover from damage to the mammoth chain's reputation by the incident, captured on video and posted last Thursday on Twitter, which has been viewed millions of times and drawn widespread condemnation.
The curriculum will be designed "to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome," the company said in a statement.
Starbucks said more than 8,000 stores would be closed and training provided to nearly 175,000 employees and incorporated into company training going forward.
"While this is not limited to Starbucks, we're committed to being a part of the solution," said Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, who earlier apologized for the incident.
"Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities."
The video posted by a Starbucks client shows uniformed police questioning and then handcuffing the two men, who offer no resistance, as a white client repeatedly asks an officer, "What'd they do? What'd they do?"
Philadelphia police said they received a 911 call from a Starbucks worker who said the men were trespassing, after sitting down and refusing to buy anything. Police said officers had "politely" asked the two to leave before finally arresting them.
The two men's lawyer Lauren Wimmer told a CBS affiliate in Philadelphia that they had been waiting for a third man to arrive for a business meeting.
The men were released after Starbucks declined to prosecute them.
"I've spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it," said Johnson on Tuesday.
Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and an internationally-acclaimed lawyer who defends prisoners on death row, will be among those experts consulted on the curriculum, Starbucks said.