NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks has always set itself apart by taking strong positions on progressive political issues. Now that reputation has landed the company in the middle of the heated national debate over gun laws.
On Thursday, the Seattle-based company will run full-page ads in major newspapers, telling customers that guns are no longer welcome in its cafes. But Starbucks is stopping short of an outright ban, exposing the fine line it needs to walk on a highly divisive issue.
“We are not pro-gun or anti-gun,” CEO Howard Schultz said in an interview, noting that customers will still be served if they choose to a carry gun.
The move comes as the company has finds itself at the center of a fight it didn’t start. In recent months, gun control advocates have been pressuring Starbucks to ban firearms, while supporters of gun rights have celebrated the company’s decision to defer to local laws. About a month ago, Starbucks shut down a store in Newtown, Conn. early to avoid a demonstration by gun rights advocates. They had planned to stage a “Starbucks Appreciation Day,” bringing their firearms and turning the company into an unwitting supporter of gun rights.
Support for guns runs counter to the Starbucks image. The warm feeling Starbucks customers get when they’re sipping lattes doesn’t always come from the coffee. For some, part of the brand’s attraction is the company’s liberal-leaning support of issues such as gay marriage and environmental preservation.
But with more than $13 billion in annual revenue and about 7,000 company-owned stores across the country —in red states and blue, Starbucks is being forced to tread carefully with its special blend of politics and commerce.