Starbucks has issued an apology after a Black customer was allegedly asked to leave by a manager over COVID-19 restrictions while other customers who entered were permitted to stay.
Bryce Ward told KGO-TV ABC7 he was singled-out by the manager by the manager of the San Jose coffee shop because of the color of his skin.
“Come straight up to me points to the door and says I need you outside. And at that moment, man, it’s embarrassing. It’s irritating. Humiliating. Why me?” Ward asked.
Starbucks has now apologized to Ward after he was asked to wait outside while his order was being prepared.
“We have no tolerance for discrimination of any kind in our stores and we never want a customer to feel discriminated against. We apologize to Mr. Ward for his experience and have retrained staff on how to respectfully navigate capacity limits to protect the health and safety of partners and customers,” Starbucks said in a statement.
Receipts show Ward placed an order at the shop at around 9:30 a.m. on March 15. According to Ward, a manager approached him and said he needed to wait outside while his order was being prepared because the store was at capacity.
Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 restrictions require businesses to remain at 50 percent capacity or less.
Ward said he believes he was targeted because he’s Black.
“I was the only Black (person) in there. I don’t know what was going through her mind,” Ward said, adding that other non-Black customers entered the store and were allowed to stay.
“You see all this traffic coming in and out and you didn’t say anything to anybody else? Why are you singling me out?” he said.
Ward said that when two customers left the store, he remained inside because he thought his presence was no longer violating capacity rules, but that the manager then yelled at him to leave.
On Instagram, Ward spoke about his experience.
“It’s sad and unfortunate how real discrimination still is,” Ward said.
“Why are you so adamant about me leaving your store? Why do you walk past everybody else in there?…You come to me and ask me to leave your store,” Ward said.
“When I come in I want to be treated with the same respect as everyone else. Do not single me out!”
Ward’s attorney Adante Pointer said it was “convenient” that the store said it doesn’t have footage of the encounter although there are security cameras in the shop.
A Starbucks spokesperson told CBS the manager’s request for Ward to leave the store was not racially motivated, but admitted the employee could have done a better job at explaining the capacity limit.
The spokesperson said an internal investigation showed that other customers had been asked to exit the store, but expressed being unsure about whether the customers actually left when asked. Employees at the San Jose location have been retrained on how to approach issues related to capacity limits differently in the future.
Ward left his phone number with the Starbucks manager after the incident, and the district manager gave him a call that night. “I just don’t want this to happen to someone else because right now I’m hurt,” he told the district manager.
In 2018, Starbucks came under fire after two Black men were arrested at a Philadelphia location because they hadn’t purchased any items. Since then, employees have been retrained on how to eliminate racial bias, the company said.