In a Torrance incident that predated the racial tension in a Philadelphia Starbucks, a man posted video on social media of himself confronting a barista and accusing her of selectively enforcing the rule reserving restrooms for customers only.
On the video, the barista identifies herself as the manager, tells the man to stop recording, and then as he continues to accuse her of bias, tells him he has to leave and calls security to have him escorted from the shop. Torrance Police were also called, but arrived after the man left, and unlike the Philadelphia incident, he was not arrested.
The incident occurred January 23rd, according to 27-year-old Brandon Ward. He posted his video on social media that same day, but it did not attract attention until he posted it again after the incident in Philadelphia in which police were called and arrested two black men who, denied use of the restroom, remained in the shop without making any purchases.
Ward, also black, was in the Starbucks at the intersection of Hawthorne and Prairie Boulevards, using the wifi as he waited for a ride, when he asked for the code for the restroom door, and was denied because he declined to make a purchase, he said. Ward then noticed another customer being given the code and using the restroom before buying anything.
The posted video shows the other man leaving the restroom, and Ward questioning him about getting the code. The other man can be heard telling Ward he planned to buy food, and, in fact, walked to the counter, with Ward following. It was at that point that Ward challenged the barista, telling her the other man had not yet bought anything before getting the code, and asserting that Ward had been denied because of his skin color.
"I feel like Starbucks should hold their managers accountable," said Ward.
His second posting garnered media attention Monday, even as the Seattle-based coffee giant was continuing to deal with fallout from the Philadelphia incident, including a demonstration outside that shop. Over the weekend, Starbucks published an open letter from CEO Kevin Johnson, expressing the company's stand against discrimination and racial profiling.
Starbucks corporate cited that open letter in responding to inquiries about the Torrance incident.
"Please know that we are taking this video and the commentary around it very seriously, and are working closely with the team to understand more. We are also already fully investigating our store practices and guidelines company-wide. In addition to our own review, we will work with outside experts and community leadaers to understand and adopt best practices, including unconscious bias training," read the Starbucks statement.
Ward said he has no problem with restrooms being reserved for customers, so long as the policy is enforced uniformly and not selectively by race.
As television news trucks gathered Monday in the parking lot outside the Starbucks, most customers were unaware of the incident, and there were no protests in Torrance.