LYNN — Starbucks Coffee Co. customers on the North Shore were disappointed Tuesday when they learned the cafes closed early.
On the heels of an incident last month when two black men were arrested for sitting at a Philadelphia Starbucks without ordering, the Seattle company shuttered more than 8,000 of its U.S. stores at 2:30 p.m. The 175,000 baristas inside the closed stores took part in racial-bias training designed to prevent discrimination, according to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson.
As she arrived at the Marblehead cafe on Pleasant Street, Kat DePietro remembered why they were closed.
“We saw it on the news, honestly, I just wanted coffee,” said DePietro, who is black. “I’ve never experienced any problems. I go to this Starbucks, I go to the one in Swampscott, ones in Boston and Cambridge, and never had a problem.”
A few miles away in Swampscott, Ronnie Lebow, a Lynn Public School substitute teacher, tried the door at the shop on Paradise Road and found it locked.
“This is 2018, and there’s a diversity of people everywhere you go,” she said. “We have to always think positively about everyone.”
At the Starbucks on the Lynnway, cars were cued up in the drive-through, unaware the store was closed until reminded by the store manager.
Customer Zio Bala, a native of Italy, said coffee lovers should not have been inconvenienced because of the actions of one employee.
“Why not stagger the training so the stores wouldn’t have to close,” he said. “They could have done it that way and made everyone happy.”
Ilias Psallidas, the owner of George’s Roast Beef, Seafood & Pizza in Lynn, used an expletive to describe the closing.
“I have a business, I see the dollar, not the color of the customer,” he said. “It’s crazy, in America there are people of all colors and I like them all. If someone makes trouble in my store, I’ll throw them out regardless of color.”
Selena Thorng, who was also in the drive-through, said she’s not convinced an afternoon of training is the answer.
“It might work on some workers, but some people are racists and they are not going to change,” she said. “Think about how long people have been fighting to be treated equally.”
Starbucks’ Johnson said closing their stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of the coffee company and partnerships in communities.