Memphis-area Starbucks close Tuesday for racial bias training

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Starbucks employees took part in a learning session Tuesday afternoon on race, bias and what the company calls "the building of a diverse welcoming company."

Local Starbucks locations, along with more than 8,000 other stores across the country, shut down after the lunch rush for an afternoon of anti-bias training for employees.

The curriculum was designed specifically for Starbucks and the company plans to share it with the public in the coming days.

"I think it's great!" said Alexa Tookers. "I mean, it's just good to be aware and have a conversation going."

Starbucks calls the training a first step, not a solution.

Last week the company changed its policy of requiring customers to make a purchase before using the restroom or simply hanging out in its stores.

"I don't think we should be limited to 'OK, we've got to walk up and order right then.' You know?" said Kim Wilson. "We might be waiting on some people. And I feel like we have that right."

Starbucks apologized to the men and no charges were filed.

Tuesday's training included a "toolkit" focused on "understanding prejudice and the history of public accommodations in the United States."

Employees worked in small self-guided groups.

"We realize that four hours of training is not going to solve racial inequity in America or anyone coming into our stores may have a problem, but we have to start the conversation," said Starbucks Executive Chairman and founder Howard Schultz.

The company said future trainings will address all aspects of bias and experiences.

"I think it's good to go ahead and make awareness of what's going on," said Kennard Farmer. "Especially with social media highlighting everything that people do. I think people need awareness of how to interact with people, how not to let things escalate."

The chairman of Starbucks told CNN on Tuesday morning that he predicts a loss of tens of millions of dollars in profits on Tuesday as a result of shutting down stores for training.

It's a cost he said is worth it to make Starbucks safe for everyone.

Memphis-area Starbucks will reopen Wednesday morning at 4:30 a.m.

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