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April 15, 2018

Starbucks CEO apologizes to black men arrested at Philly store, wants to meet with them

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Starbucks 18th Spruce Source/Google Street View

Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has apologized to the two black men arrested and escorted out of a store in Philadelphia on Thursday and hopes to meet with them face-to-face, according to a statement released by the company Saturday night.

In the statement, Johnson called the incident a "disheartening situation" that had a "reprehensible outcome."

"In the coming days, I will be joining our regional vice president, Camille Hymes — who is on the ground in Philadelphia — to speak with partners, customers and community leaders as well as law enforcement," Johnson said. "Most importantly, I hope to meet personally with the two men who were arrested to offer a face-to-face apology."

On Thursday night, police officers handcuffed and escorted the two men out of the Starbucks location at 18th and Spruce streets in Center City. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said in a Facebook Live stream on Saturday that the men were arrested because they wouldn't leave the store after being asked to by police.

The men, both Realtors, were waiting for a friend, who arrived soon after police arrived. Ross said one of the men was denied access to the bathroom because he wasn't a paying customer, which is the store's policy. An employee called 911 on them after they refused to leave. The men were eventually released without charges. 

The friend can be seen in video of the incident arguing with police, suggesting that the only reason the men were being asked to leave was because of the color of their skin. Many on social media made the same point.

Johnson said in his statement that the company has begun a review of its practices in response to the incident. He also said Starbucks will work with outside experts and community leaders to adopt best practices and train its employees how to better deal with situations when police are needed.

"The video shot by customers is very hard to watch and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks Mission and Values," Johnson said. "Creating an environment that is both safe and welcoming for everyone is paramount for every store."

Johnson said he hopes to improve the company for all Starbucks employees and customers.

"You can and should expect more from us. We will learn from this and be better," Johnson said.