Starbucks (SBUX) may be closing its bathrooms to the public as part of an effort to keep its employees safe, according to company CEO Howard Schultz.

Schultz made the comments at the New York Times DealBook DC policy forum on Thursday, where he said the coffee chain is considering closing its public bathrooms over mental health issues that make it a challenge for employees to manage stores.

Schultz continued by saying it’s an “issue of just safety,” adding that it may have to limit the number of non-customers who enter its stores.

“We have to harden our stores and provide safety for our people,” Schultz told the Times. “I don't know if we can keep our bathrooms open.”

The move by Starbucks would undo a policy it initiated back in 2018, where it would allow anyone, even non-paying patrons, to use its bathrooms.

Starbucks issued the open-bathroom policy after two Black men were arrested at a Starbucks store in Philadelphia in April 2018 who refused to leave after they were denied use of the bathroom. The men settled with the coffee chain for an undisclosed amount and were offered a free college education in May 2018, Business Insider reported.

In reaction, Starbucks closed all of its stores and held anti-bias training for one day for all of its employees, while then-CEO Kevin Johnson apologized for the incident.

Starbucks then announced, “any customer is welcome to use Starbucks spaces, including our restrooms, cafes and patios, regardless of whether they make a purchase,” the Times reported.

At the time, Schulz, who was Starbuck’s executive chairman, said, “Because we don’t want anyone at Starbucks to feel as if we are not giving access to you to the bathroom because you are ‘less than.’ We want you to be ‘more than,’” according to the Times.

As of Friday at 12:26 p.m. ET, shares of Starbucks were trading at $76.29, down $2.62, or 3.32%.

Starbucks has pledged to donate profits from its business in Russia to humanitarian efforts in Ukraine
Starbucks has pledged to donate profits from its business in Russia to humanitarian efforts in Ukraine AFP / Federico PARRA
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