A downtown Philadelphia Starbucks is at the center of controversy this weekend after a Facebook post alleging that an employee of the coffee shop refused to allow a uniformed Philadelphia Police sergeant use the restroom went viral.
The post, which does not identify the sergeant involved, says he walked into the Starbucks at 13th and Chestnut streets and asked to use the restroom, for which a key code is required. The employee, according to the post, "State[d] in a loud voice ... that the bathroom is for paying customers only." The post goes on to say that the sergeant asked politely to use the restroom anyway, and that the Starbucks employee declined to grant access.
Officer Joe Leighthardt, who knows the sergeant, was the first to share his fellow officer's post about the incident, which happened Thursday or Friday of last week. 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.
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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."
Starbucks also responded to the same Facebook post about the alleged incident asking for contact information for the officer involved so the company could reach out directly.
"We would like to discuss the situation with the police officer and hear from them directly about this experience," the company wrote in its comment. "If you happen to know who this was -- please have him/her send us a private message through our page with their contact info."
Leighthardt told NBC10 that he believes the sergeant has contacted Starbucks. He declined to comment when reached by NBC10.
Starbucks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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.