Police line up in front of a Starbucks coffee shop on Aug. 28, 2004, in New York City.
Photo: Chris Hondros (Getty Images)

When a barista at a Philadelphia Starbucks infamously called the cops on two black men sitting there minding their own business, the incident revealed how one employee’s racism could sully the reputation of an entire business. But just because Holly Hylton called 911 doesn’t mean Starbucks is racist or in bed with the Philadelphia Police Department.

But what if Starbucks regularly did this? What if Starbucks locations all over Philadelphia used Philly cops like bouncers at nightclubs? Suppose there was proof that cops in Philadelphia routinely ejected people for doing absolutely nothing at all. What would that mean?

Well, a recent review of 911 data shows that is exactly what happened.

When Rabble Rouser compiled and reviewed 911 call logs made at five Philadelphia Starbucks locations, it found that each store called on Philadelphia Police to remove people from the coffee shops at a rate of about once every month.

The report examined emergency call data from these five Philadelphia Starbucks stores: 1801 Market, 1301 Chestnut, 1839 Chestnut, 1201 Walnut and 1801 Spruce. Over 39 months, 660 calls to 911 were made from these five locations alone. Of these emergency calls, 104 were for tripped alarms.

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Of the 556 remaining calls, the 911 call records show:

  • Almost one-third of the calls (173) were coded “3306,” police code for dispersing a crowd, which averages to almost one call per month.
  • Police arrested 18 people, including Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, who were jailed for the heinous crime of waiting while black.
  • Only 69 of the calls were labeled as 3314, or “unfounded,” meaning that police found the call had no merit, the situation had been resolved or they used their discretion to address the issue.
  • In 2016 the Starbucks in Rittenhouse Square, where Nelson and Robinson were arrested, made only two calls to disperse a crowd. But soon after the store hired Hylton, the call volume jumped considerably to 28 calls in 2017.

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For comparison, Rabble Rouser also examined the 911 call records of OCF Coffee, located about two blocks from the Starbucks location in Rittenhouse Square. OCF Coffee offers free Wi-Fi and allows customers to sit in and work on their laptops, similar to Starbucks’ public policy.

During the same 39-month period, OCF Coffee employees called 911 a total of 10 times, five of which were for tripped alarms.

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So while each nearby Starbucks’ employees sicced the Philadelphia Police on customers an average of 132 times in three years, OCF Coffee managed to restrain itself from calling the police on its patrons, only doing so at a rate of about once every year.

In response, the Philadelphia Police Department has since revised its policy on how it treats people accused of trespassing.

In response, Starbucks closed its stores for one day to implement racial bias training.

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In response, black people still spend money at Starbucks.