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Starbucks Clarifies its Open Door Policy: No Drug Use or Sleeping

(Oli Scarff/Getty)

Starbucks attempted to clarify its newly announced open door policy Monday by explaining that certain forms of behavior will not be tolerated, placing constraints on its previous vow to make its cafes available to everyone regardless of whether they make a purchase.

The Seattle based coffee retailer announced earlier this month that anyone, including non-customers, can now access its bathrooms and seating areas. The policy was announced after the arrest of two black men asking to use the bathroom at a Philadelphia location drew a scourge of unfavorable media coverage.

Starbucks addressed complaints that its locations would become defacto homeless shelters Monday, telling the Wall Street Journal that guests are prohibited from drinking, using drugs, sleeping, smoking and using bathrooms improperly. Representatives explained that the procedure for handling disruptive guests requires that managers and baristas ask other guests if someone’s behavior is disruptive before asking that person to leave.

The new policy is part of a crisis management strategy set into motion after a video depicting the arrest of two black men, accused of loitering by a store manager, went viral. In response to the spate of negative coverage and resulting boycott threats, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson announced that more than 8,000 locations would close on the afternoon of May 29 so that employees could submit to “unconscious bias training.”

The coffee chain reached a settlement with the two men for an undisclosed amount.

Public relations experts and retail management experts are divided on whether Johnson’s strategy will prove effective and sustainable in the long run.

“Starbucks is making a strategic bet that by defining its own moral code they will continue to attract a core consumer group that will remain loyal, but you max out on that demographic at some point,” Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, told the Wall Street Journal.

Schiffer, however, agreed the scale of the public backlash to the viral arrest video required that the company take short term action beyond simply apologizing.

“The whole goal of managing a crisis is regaining credibility and that comes from aligning words with actions,” he said.

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