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Starbucks: No Purchase Necessary to Access Stores

FILE - People sit at a Starbucks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylavania, Jan. 12, 2017.

Coffee giant Starbucks says anyone is welcome to sit in its cafes or use its restrooms, even if they don't buy anything, according to a new policy announced over the weekend.

Previously, it was left to individual store managers to decide whether people could access Starbucks premises without making a purchase.

"We are committed to creating a culture of warmth and belonging where everyone is welcome,'' Starbucks said in a statement.

The company has asked employees to follow established procedure when dealing with "disruptive behaviors," and are still asked to call 911 in case of "immediate threat or danger" to customers or employees.

The change comes after two black men who went to a Philadelphia store last month and did not buy anything; they told the store manager they were waiting for a friend to join them. They were asked to leave and an employee called police, which led to their arrest, prompting protests and accusations of racism.

The April 12 incident, video of which was posted on social media, was a major embarrassment for the coffee chain.

After the attention garnered by the arrests, Starbucks decided to close more than 8,000 of its U.S. stores on the afternoon of May 29 for racial-bias training for its employees.

The men who were arrested settled with Starbucks earlier this month for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free college education for each of them.

They also reached a deal with the city of Philadelphia for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from city officials to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.