EXCLUSIVE: Starbucks apologizes to Black man over alleged incident of discrimination at San Jose store

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Different treatment because of the color of your skin, that's what a Black San Francisco man said happened to him at a San Jose Starbucks. Now the company is apologizing and retraining staff.

"Come straight up to me points to the door and says I need you outside. And at that moment, man, it's embarrassing. It's irritating. Humiliating. Why me?," said Bryce Ward exclusively to ABC7 News.

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Starbucks is now apologizing to Ward after he was told to step outside of the coffee shop on Mckee Road in San Jose while he waited for his order to be made.

He said he remained inside the store after two women left, by his logic the store was no longer at capacity.

Ward provided a receipt to ABC7 News showing he was at the store and made the purchase March 15 at approximately 9:30 a.m.

Ward said a manager told him the store was at capacity per Santa Clara County's COVID restrictions so he had to leave.

He said other customers were allowed into the store and he believes he was targeted because he's Black.

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"I was the only Black (person) in there. I don't know what was going through her mind," Ward said.

Santa Clara County is currently in the red tier for reopening, meaning retail stores are limited to a maximum of 50% capacity.

County health officials announced Tuesday the county will soon move to the orange tier for reopening, allowing for greater capacity at businesses.

"You see all this traffic coming in and out and you didn't say anything to anybody else? Why are you singling me out?," he said.

After the incident, the San Francisco barber took to Instagram to share his experience.

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ABC7 News reached out to Starbucks for comment and received the following statement:

"We have no tolerance for discrimination of any kind in our stores and we never want a customer to feel discriminated against. We apologize to Mr. Ward for his experience and have retrained staff on how to respectfully navigate capacity limits to protect the health and safety of partners and customers."

A Starbucks spokesperson also told ABC7 News the "company does not have video available of the incident" despite having security cameras at the store.

"How convenient that the very key piece of evidence that would corroborate what took place here, and would probably turn into a viral video once it was released, no one can seem to find it," said Adante Pointer, Oakland-based civil rights attorney.

The situation rings similar to a 2018 incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks location where two Black men were arrested for refusing to leave a store. The men requested to use the store's restroom, but were denied because they hadn't made a purchase.

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Outrage led to the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks trending on Twitter and nationwide anti-bias training for employees.

"We need to be hearing from the people at the top because the top sets the tone for the rest of the organization," said Pointer.

While additional training has already happened at the location in question, a Starbucks spokesperson also confirmed additional training is planned for eleven stores across the district in the South Bay.

"I just want to make sure it doesn't happen to anybody else," said Ward.
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