On June 16, 2024, Hotel Executive published an article from Chicago-based Partner Rob Schnitz that discussed the law surrounding retail businesses asking guests to leave their premises. Schnitz focused this article on an incident that took place in 2018, at a Starbucks in Philadelphia where law enforcement was called to remove two customers from the premises.
To better understand the law and this incident, Schnitz explained how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title II), which prohibits discrimination in lodging and restaurant establishments based on race, color, national origin or religion, impacted the established common law of trespassing. “Since then, removing a guest from a hotel or restaurant due to guest’s race became an unlawful practice nationally and provided a legal basis to question whether race, color, national origin, or religion was a motivating factor for asking a guest to leave,” Schnitz wrote.

“The Starbucks location didn’t merely ask two Black male guests to leave, it summoned law enforcement, who then arrested and handcuffed the two men. The incident was captured on video recording showing police handcuffing the guests without any noticeable resistance or disruption. In fact, the two men can be described as calm while customers can be heard questioning the police about the reason for the arrest.”

Further explaining the Starbucks incident, Schnitz wrote, “One key to understanding the change lies in the question that many were asking on social media at the time of the incident – “What did the men do to deserve such treatment? They weren’t doing anything except sitting and relaxing at a Starbucks restaurant just like everyone else.” Embedded in that common question and observation is the notion that people have an expectation that they are allowed to “hang out” at a coffee shop, restaurant, or hotel regardless of whether they are buying goods or services.” Schnitz also identifies several practices operators can consider to better address bias.

To view the full article, subscribers may click here.