Controversy erupted last week after social media began spreading images of a sign posted at a Starbucks in Saudi Arabia that banned entry to women. Yesterday, however, it was reported that women are being allowed in the coffee shop—assuming the newly installed “gender wall” keeps doing its job.
Apparently, the sign—which read “please no entry for ladies only send your driver to order thank you”—became necessary after an issue with a dividing wall, intended to separate single men from women and families in accordance with local religious law. Without a proper “gender wall,” as it is sometimes called, authorities barred women from entering the Starbucks.
Now, according to Starbucks, the wall is up and running and everything is back to normal, at least by Saudi Arabian standards. “Starbucks welcomes all customers, including women and families, to enjoy the Starbucks experience. We have worked with local authorities to obtain approval to refurbish one of our stores in Jarir, which was originally built without a gender wall. That meant it could only accommodate men in accordance with local law,” the coffee giant said, according to CNN. “This was the only such Starbucks store in Saudi Arabia. During construction, the store could only accommodate and serve single men, and a poster was placed at the store entrance as required by local law.”
Starbucks later elaborated further in the same statement. “We are pleased to share that the store is now accessible to single men on one side as well as women and families on the other side,” the company continued. “Starbucks has now 78 stores in Saudi Arabia and all stores cater to both families and singles, except for one that is exclusively reserved for women and families.”
It’s a reminder that we should be thankful that we live in a country where anyone can walk into any Starbucks and get treated equally. That said, I wouldn’t mind if they at least had a policy about who can use the restroom. Not along gender lines, of course, but I’m pretty sure some of the stuff people are doing in there should definitely be banned.