Starbucks Apologizes to Philly Police Sergeant Denied Access to Restroom

In the wake of a social media post that went viral over the weekend claiming a Starbucks barista denied a uniformed Philadelphia Police sergeant access to a restroom at a downtown Philadelphia coffee shop, Starbucks has apologized to the sergeant.

A spokesperson for the international coffee shop chain told NBC10 that the company personally apologized to the police sergeant for the incident, which happened late last week. The sergeant, according to a Facebook post shared thousands of times, walked into the Starbucks at 13th and Chestnut streets and asked for the key code to use the restroom. An employee, according to the post, "State[d] in a loud voice ... that the bathroom is for paying customers only."

The post went on to say that the sergeant politely requested access again, and that the Starbucks employee continued to deny it loudly as customers listened.

"While she continued loudly to tell me about the bathroom down the street, I was even more astonished that the many customers and other employees said nothing and seemed indifferent. This is the world cops live in anymore," wrote the sergeant, who has declined to comment, saying he didn't anticipate that his post would gain such traction.

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Thought you world like to know this happened at your 1301 Chestnut St in Philadelphia. In a time when police are being...

Posted by Joe Leighthardt on Friday, September 11, 2015

Officer Joe Leighthardt, a friend of the sergeant, was the first to share the fellow officer's post about the incident. Leighthardt said he personally has been to that Starbucks location several times on calls for service, but never as a customer.

"I didn't intend for it to go viral," Leighthardt said, adding that most people who have responded to the post have been supportive.

In reply to Leighthardt's post on Starbucks' official Facebook page, Starbucks wrote in part, "We are aware of this situation, and it is certainly not in line with the experience we want any of our customers to have in our stores. We are taking all necessary steps to ensure this doesn't happen in the future."

A spokesperson for Starbucks did not specify what those steps are when asked by NBC10, but wrote, "We want everyone who visits our stores to enjoy their visit. This customer's experience was not consistent with the welcoming and friendly environment we strive to create for everyone.

"We have personally apologized to the customer and look forward to welcoming him back to our store."

NBC10's Rosemary Connors visited the Starbucks Monday and was allowed to use the bathroom without having to pay for anything. An employee at a Center City Starbucks, who did not want to be identified, also sent the following message to NBC10:

I work at a Center City Starbucks and we allow any customer to use the restroom, we often make an exception for uniformed police officers though, considering their presence keeps us safe.

I've worked for the company for 8 years, and there has always been a problem with non-customers trying to use our bathrooms for bathing or changing, or using drugs. Once, a co-worker of mine was stuck with a syringe while taking out the trash! Limiting our restrooms is for safety to our baristas, however I do agree that uniformed cops, PPA reps, and other federal, state and city employees, should have an exception be made for them.

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