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Saudi Starbucks fixes 'gender wall,' allows women back in store

The move follows criticism over a sign barring women from entering the Riyadh location after the collapse of a gender segregation wall.
By Fred Lambert Contact the Author   |   Feb. 9, 2016 at 3:38 PM
| License Photo

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Starbucks responded Monday to public backlash against a sign barring women from entering the Starbucks in Saudi Arabia's capital, saying a gender-segregating wall had been re-built after collapsing.

"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," NBC News quoted a statement from the coffee company as saying. "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."

The move comes amid criticism over a sign that appeared last week at the company's Riyadh location that read: "Please no entry for ladies only send your driver to order thank you."

The sign was placed on the front door in accordance with local law after a wooden wall separating men from women inside the coffee shop reportedly collapsed.

Starbucks said in a statement Thursday it was "working as quickly as possible" to refurbish the store "so that we may again welcome all customers in accordance with local customs."

The Seattle-based company said the Riyadh location was originally built without a gender wall and could only serve men, as required by Saudi law, but noted Monday the store had been refurbished to include the partition.

Saudi Arabian law bans females of all ages from working, traveling or studying without permission from male guardians.

Saudi women were permitted to vote and campaign in municipal elections for the first time in December, but authorities in the Kingdom passed new rules last week segregating men and women representatives at local council meetings.

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