Why Starbucks Could Soon Change Its Bathroom Policy

The most memorable bathroom-related side effect of the coronavirus pandemic was the hoarding of toilet paper, but there was another casualty: public restrooms. Public restrooms have so many potential surfaces for the virus to spread, so many cities shut them down during the pandemic (via Bloomberg). According to QS Supply's World Public Toilet Index, even though the U.S. is one of the most developed nations in the world, there are only eight public bathrooms for every 100,000 people.

While the issue of public bathroom access existed long before COVID-19, it became even more pronounced during the wave of pandemic-related precautions. One NYC resident expressed their frustration on Twitter in May of last year: "no one tells you that hot girl summer is mostly just finding places to pee in prospect park." When public bathrooms are not an option, stores, restaurants, and bars are the only hope when you gotta go, but many require you to make a purchase in order to use the facilities. One place that allows the general public to use the bathroom is Starbucks, but that policy may be changing soon (via CNN).

Starbucks may close its bathrooms to the general public for employee safety

Prior to 2018, Starbucks store managers made the decision about who could or could not use the bathroom (via CNN). It was common to let only paying customers use the facilities, which ultimately led to one of the biggest scandals to ever hit Starbucks. In 2018, two black men asked to use a Starbucks bathroom in Philadelphia and then sat in the store without making a purchase. After asking them if they wanted anything to drink and they declined, the store manager called the police and the men were arrested for trespassing, even though they were simply waiting on a prospective business associate (via ABC News).

Starbucks responded by holding racial bias training and announced that the bathrooms were now open to the general public (via CNN). Interim CEO Howard Schultz recently revealed at a conference that the coffee giant is now considering reserving the bathrooms for customers only (via The New York Times). Schultz cited employee safety as the reasoning behind this change in policy and seemed to suggest that a worsening "mental health crisis" has created concerns about who is entering stores to use the bathroom (per YouTube). It appears that no final decision on the issue has been made at this time.