‘Do you really want to deal with a mass of homeless people?’: Megyn Kelly questions Starbucks’ new open-bathroom policy

Starbucks' new bathroom policy is raising some eyebrows.

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Starbucks’ new bathroom policy is raising some eyebrows.
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Sorbis/Shutterstock.com

  • Megyn Kelly on Tuesday criticized Starbucks’ decision to open its bathrooms to all people.
  • “Do you really want to deal with a mass of homeless people or whoever is in there – could be drug-addicted, you don’t know – when you’re there with your kids?” Kelly said on her NBC show.
  • Starbucks recently announced that all people could visit and use the bathrooms at the chain’s locations without making any purchases.

Not everyone is pleased by Starbucks’ decision to allow anyone to use its bathrooms.

On “Megyn Kelly Today” on Tuesday, the NBC host criticized Starbucks’ new policy to open its bathrooms to all, even those who aren’t buying anything. Starbucks, which is closing all of its US locations on Tuesday afternoon for anti-bias training, recently announced the move.

On her show, Kelly highlighted criticism of the new policy, saying that paying customers were complaining about Starbucks stores becoming a public space. Jenna Bush Hager, a guest on the show, pushed back on concerns, saying it’s “not a solution” for homelessness, “but it’s also compassionate – it’s also showing kindness to people.”

Kelly later said: “Do you really want to deal with a mass of homeless people or whoever is in there – could be drug-addicted, you don’t know – when you’re there with your kids?”

A representative for Kelly did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for further comment.

Kelly isn’t the only person to criticize Starbucks’ new policy. Last week, Daniel Henninger wrote an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal under the headline “Starbucks’ Homeless Problem.”

“On instinct, Starbucks decided it could also be a homeless shelter,” Henninger wrote. “But then the social-media monitors vetoed that. What the Starbucks crucible makes clear is … you can’t win.”

He added: “No matter what you do to try to appease the progressive zeitgeist, it will always be wrong.”

What the changes actually mean

Starbucks Store Closed for Training

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Starbucks

Practically speaking, many Starbucks locations have always had an open-door policy for most customers, with employees rarely preventing visitors from using the restrooms. However, some people have been excluded from the open-bathroom norm. Those excluded tend to be black customers and people whom employees believe to be homeless.

Starbucks leadership has emphasized that the new policies are meant to address race. Having concrete policies in place, executives say, is a way to deal with implicit biases that some managers and employees may not realize they have, therefore making Starbucks more welcoming for all.

However, a big sticking point may be how the new policies affect homeless people. Starbucks has long been a haven for people who are homeless for the same reason it is enjoyed by anyone looking for a place to rest their feet. It has free WiFi and ample seating, and staff members will not kick you out.

Now, in most situations, staff members cannot kick you out – which would be a marked change in how Starbucks has previously dealt with some customers whom employees perceive to be homeless.

In 2016, three Starbucks locations in parts of Los Angeles with large homeless populations closed their bathrooms to customers and non-customers to discourage homeless people from visiting to use the restrooms and free WiFi. In 2007, a woman was thrown out of a Starbucks in Illinois because management thought she was homeless.

At the training on Tuesday, Starbucks employees will be encouraged and required to be inclusive in a way that goes against the grain in the chain-restaurant industry.

Will Starbucks actually feel different? That remains to be seen. But, you can’t discount new policies’ potential for shifting Starbucks’ environment – for better or for worse – just yet.

Here’s the full clip from Kelly’s show:

Read more about Starbucks’ closures: