After the arrest of two black men for sitting in one of its Philadelphia cafés without buying anything while waiting for a meeting provoked accusations of discriminatory practices, coffee giant Starbucks has introduced a 'third-place policy' for its US branches.
The new policy, announced on Saturday, means that Starbucks’ employees will allow all guests to use the facilities in its coffee shops, including toilets, regardless of their spending – unless they exhibit disruptive behaviour such as smoking, drug or alcohol use, improper use of bathrooms or sleeping.
While the new policy hasn’t been rolled out across its international locations yet, it is expected to be discussed in the coming weeks.
Open-door policy for pubs?
The Morning Advertiser asked whether pub operators in the UK would be happy to open their doors to non-paying customers to use their toilets.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said: "This is a decision for individual licensees but inevitably there would be a cost to pubs in putting such a practice into place.
“Cleanliness is hugely important to customers and licensees would have to ensure that standards are maintained.
“It would also be particularly problematic for pubs in busy town centres and late at night."
A spokesperson for JD Wetherspoon also stated that they leave the decision over who uses their venues’ facilities to the discretion of the manager.
Lee Price of the Royal Pier in Aberystwyth, Wales, added that an open-door policy can provide pubs with an opportunity to boost trade. “We are more than happy to allow non-paying customers the use of our toilets, and view it is as a valuable opportunity to showcase the temperature of the welcome.
“Our smallest rooms contain display frames that advertise different parts of the offer in a bid to convert the person taking a wee into a regular returnee.”
Claire Alexander, co-owner of Yubby Inns, the company behind the Ebrington Arms and the Killingworth Castle – both in the Cotswolds, west England – explained: “We do and we always have as we’ve got the only toilets in the village – and we’re in the Cotswolds so full of walkers.
“I do prefer it when they ask but I’d never not allow someone to use the loo.”
Respondents to a poll on Twitter by The Morning Advertiser revealed that publicans were split on the issue.
Andy Grimsey, partner at specialist licensing legal firm Poppleston Allen, said: “Licensees are permitted, of course, to refuse entry to anyone they wish, so long as this is not on discriminatory grounds.
“However, operators should remember that if they allow non-customers on their premises they likely owe a duty of care and if, for example, someone popping in to use the toilets falls over and cracks their head on a worn carpet they will have as strong a claim as a paying customer.
“This may be a matter of fact and degree – on a busy Friday night would you advise your door staff to allow a tipsy passer-by to use your toilets (as distinct from your responsibilities towards vulnerable persons)?
“It’s important to have a clear policy on use of the premises by non-customers, including what services they can use and at what times such a policy applies.
“As always, the goodwill and common sense of licensees is critical."