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The independent news website of The Kent Stater & TV2


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Kent Starbucks allegedly told to remove Pride décor amid company’s strike over LGBTQ decorations

Erin Sullivan
Kent Starbucks located on E Main St.

Those who often visit the Kent Starbucks on Main Street may notice a change in the coffee shop decor. The pride flag which was displayed on the wall since June of 2022 has been taken down.

Former Kent Starbucks Barista Kelsey Paulus has worked at the Kent Starbucks for two years, and revealed that the company told the store to take down pride décor because it “did not match the aesthetic of the store.” 

According to Paulus, the store’s reason for the flag’s removal was because it did not follow Siren’s Eye, Starbuck’s signature aesthetic for in-store decorations.

Starbucks has been accused of banning pride décor in stores across the country, prompting a strike from baristas at 150 store locations

Starbucks Workers United Union held “Strike with Pride,” a week-long unfair labor practice strike over the alleged ban on pride decorations June 23 – 30. 

Workers on strike claimed that Starbucks made store locations across the country remove LGBTQ+ decorations.  

“We’ve had that flag up for a long time,” a barista at the Kent Starbucks, who wished to remain anonymous to avoid conflict with the company, said. “I also heard that Starbucks has told us to take it down repeatedly before, but we just haven’t done it… I don’t know why this time was different… It happened right before the start of Pride month.” 

Paulus said the store initially displayed a pride flag during last year’s pride month. 

“We just never took it down,” Paulus said, “A lot of the employees are LGBTQ+ and we wanted to show our support for the community.”

“Most of the people that work here are gay so I know a lot of people are mad,” said the anonymous barista. 

During last month’s Pride celebration, the anonymous barista said Starbucks provided Kent employees with Pride pins to wear on their aprons. 

“It feels like they’re trying to slap a band-aid on this situation that they created,” the anonymous barista said. “My assumption is that with the uprising of far-right extremism, they’re scared they’ll lose customers because we have pride flags up.”

Starbucks denies anti-LGBTQ+ allegations

Starbucks has denied these allegations and accuses Workers United of using misinformation about its support for LGBTQ+ causes. 

“We unwaveringly support the LGBTQIA2+ community,” Starbucks Media Relations representative Sam Jefferies said in a statement to Kent Wired. “It is inaccurate to report that Starbucks has issued a ban on Pride decorations as there has been no change to company policy on this matter.”

Starbucks said it will continue to work with its stores to celebrate the diversity of the communities within the framework of their Siren’s Eye appearance guidelines.  

“Starbucks does not send a Pride Month display package to individual stores… our local leaders and partners are empowered to find their own ways to show their support,” the statement said. “Some have decorated display and community boards, others have hung Pride flags, some have chalked in front of stores and others have even hosted events for customers and partners.” 

Despite this, employees like Paulus claim they had no say in the removal of their Pride decor. 

“We were feeling pretty powerless in the situation,” Paulus said. “We knew there was nothing we can do if our district manager is telling us we can’t have this.”

Erin Sullivan is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Erin Sullivan, Photographer
Erin is a senior journalism major who works for KentWired. She started her career as a reporter and anchor for TV2 News and a safety reporter for KentWired. Erin now serves as a TV2 reporter and photographer for KentWired. She most enjoys reporting stories that directly impact the residents of Portage County. Contact her at [email protected].

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