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Starbucks moves quickly to apologize after barista reportedly asked six Tempe police officers to leave

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large

Starbucks (SBUX) is moving quickly to address the fresh hot water it finds itself in, this time with supporters of law enforcement across social media.

The coffee giant has come under fire on July 4 weekend for how a barista at a store in Tempe, Arizona reportedly treated six police officers that visited the location. According to a statement from the Tempe Officers Association, the six officers walked into the Starbucks on July 4. The group was approached by a barista — one that is allegedly friendly with one of the cops — and were asked to move out of the line of sight of a customer because he “did not feel safe.”

Some accounts of the incident have suggested the barista then asked the six officers to leave the store.

"This treatment of public safety workers could not be more disheartening. While the barista was polite, making such a request at all was offensive," the statement said. "Unfortunately, such treatment has become all too common in 2019."

But before the statement, the Association took to Twitter to say they didn’t appreciate how the officers were handled. In the tweet (see below) was a logo reading “Dump Starbucks.” Twitter quickly erupted with the #DumpStarbucks hashtag, which has continued to trend on Sunday.

Perhaps learning a bit from how it handled an April 2018 incident where a barista called the police on two black men at a Philadelphia store, Starbucks was fast to issue an apology.

“On behalf of Starbucks, I want to sincerely apologize to you all for the experience that six of your officers had in our store on July 4,” wrote Starbucks executive vice president of U.S. retail Rosanne Williams in a letter to the Tempe police chief and police department. “What occurred in our store on July 4 is never the experience your officers or any customer should have, and at Starbucks, we are already taking the necessary steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again in the future.”

A source close to the matter says Williams will meet with Tempe’s mayor this evening. There are no plans to close Starbucks stores for a new round of employee training. After the incident in Philadelphia, Starbucks closed some 8,000 locations in the afternoon for anti-bias training.

The barista in question is still employed with Starbucks, according to the source.

Despite the social media uproar, it’s unclear if the incident will impact Starbucks’ same-store sales at its 14,600 plus U.S. locations. More than a year after the incident in Philadelphia, Starbucks finds its U.S. sales back on an upward trajectory amid growing interest in new iced drinks and food offerings.

Despite the incident in Philadelphia, Starbucks’ stock has surged 51% since news of the incident in Philadelphia surfaced on April 15, 2018, according to Yahoo Finance data. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average have only gained about 12% each during that same stretch.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-host of ‘The First Trade’ at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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