Lorne Green says he was racially profiled at the Regency Square Starbucks. (Google Earth)
BRANDON, FL — A black customer plans to file a lawsuit against the Starbucks in Regency Square, 2350 W. Brandon Blvd., Brandon, after he said he was racially profiled and harassed by employees when he used the restroom and then cited for trespassing by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies.
Lorne Green, 44, said he went into the coffee shop April 22 to meet with a client. He went into the restroom before placing an order and said he heard a female employee say, "A big black man is going to the bathroom."
Once inside, Green heard someone knocking on the door.
This incident comes almost one year after two black men were forced out of a Starbucks in Philadelphia. Starbucks responded by closing down all of their stores for one day last May to conduct racial bias sensitivity training. https://t.co/zKGh2ibos9 by @TrevorPettiford— Spectrum Bay News 9 (@BN9) May 8, 2019
Green, with Jasmine Rand, a civil rights attorney who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, by his side, told his story at a May 8 press conference.
"This incessant knocking starts," said Rand. "Knocking on the door, over and over again. ‘Do you need fire rescue? Do you need fire rescue?’ And it became very clear that asking him if he needed fire rescue was not actually about helping Mr. Lorne. Simply, all my client did was use the bathroom while black."
Green said he became nervous, so he called Starbucks’ corporate offices and talked to a representative while still in the restroom.
Green and his attorney played an excerpt from his 22-minute call with the corporate office during the press conference.
Starbucks representative: "Ah, so you feel like this is racially motivated?"
Green: "It is, very! I walked in, she immediately, not even five minutes, she goes, ‘A black male went inside’ and called the police on me before I even got in the bathroom. I didn’t know what was on the other side of that door cause no one identified who they were and it felt like a crowd of people, and I was thinking, ‘Do you really want to open this door right now?’"
When Green finally left the restroom, he said he was confronted by an "angry and hostile white female employee," who called the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office after Green admittedly confronted the woman and used foul language.
When deputies arrived, they issued Green a trespass citation and asked him to leave the coffee shop.
Green, a public insurance adjuster, said he often meets clients at Starbucks, and always makes purchases at the coffee shop during those meetings.
"I have never experienced anything like to this degree. This is extreme," said Green.
Starbucks issued the following statement about the incident:
We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind and take this type of accusation very seriously. We are conducting an investigation to understand what happened and will take appropriate action.
Following a lawsuit filed against a Philadelphia Starbucks in April 2018 in which Starbucks employees were accused of racial profiling in a similar incident regarding use of the shops restroom, Starbucks publicly announced a new policy that states anyone is free to use its restrooms even without a purchase. The company also closed its more than 8,000 coffee shops across the country on May 29, 2018, to conduct racial bias training.
Green said he plans to file a lawsuit against Starbucks. In the meantime, he demanded that the female employee be fired and that the trespass citation against him be dismissed. Patch has contacted Rand but there is no word yet on whether his demands have been met.