Over pizza, salad and tall cups of coffee, Starbucks employees from Seattle to SoHo sat at tables, watched videos and talked about racism Tuesday.
Thousands of the iconic coffee shops were closed from coast to coast for racial sensitivity training in the wake of an incident last month that resulted in the arrest of two black men accused of loitering at a Philadelphia Starbucks.
At a Starbucks in Tribeca, baristas watched videos on iPads, read brochures and talked in groups.
“I think it’s great that they do that,” said Rebecca Rossi, 33, who lives and works in Lower Manhattan. She was only slightly disappointed that she couldn’t get a cup of coffee.
“It’s not a big deal,” Rossi said. “I can make a pot of coffee at home.”
Coffee lover Amanda Pratt, 46, agreed.
“I think it’s good,” said Pratt, who works and lives in Tribeca. “It’s good to refresh people’s ethics, especially now, with this presidency.”
A barista who sat in on the training at an Upper East Side Starbucks said the company got it right.
“It was about being patient and courteous with other races and cultures,” she said. “It’s what we do ordinarily every day. Somebody just got it all wrong in Philadelphia.”
She said it was more than the corporation just going through the motions.
“It was real,” she said. “It was a good reminder.”
An estimated 180,000 Starbucks employees in 8,000 cafes across the country received a “tool kit” focusing on topics including “understanding racial bias and the history of public accommodations in the United States,” according to the company. The sessions also involved “sharing life experiences, hearing from others, listening to experts, reflecting on the realities of bias in our society and talking about how all of us create public spaces where everyone feel like they belong.”
Starbucks vowed to create and offer the new curriculum after a manager at a Philadelphia cafe phoned the police on two black businessmen while they were awaiting the arrival of a colleague.
They had not purchased anything at the time and were also denied use of the bathroom.
Authorities arrested Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, both 23, for trespassing and escorted them out of the Starbucks in handcuffs.
The charges were later dropped, but video of their April 10 arrest went viral on social media and prompted widespread backlash and protests.