Women have been barred from entering a Starbucks in the Saudi Arabia capital of Riyadh. According to Emirates 24/7, the mandate was passed down from the nation's religious police after a routine inspection revealed that the coffee shop's "gender wall" — a wooden barrier intended to keep men and women separate — had collapsed.
According to Arabic-language newspaper Al Weaam, a sign was posted on the coffee shop's door that read, "On order by the Commission… please no women allowed in… women can send in their drivers to buy for them." Saudi women are outlawed from driving, which has led to booming business for driver-on-demand services like Uber.
The gender partitions are present in all Saudi dining establishments, from full-service restaurants to fast food chains located in mall food courts. (When culinary explorer Anthony Bourdain visited the nation in 2008 for his Travel Channel series No Reservations, his female guide presented the idea that the partitions were intended to shield families from single men, rather than to isolate women.) Meanwhile, some restaurants in Saudi Arabia have attempted to ban women altogether to prevent intermingling between the sexes.
Starbucks currently operates nearly 100 locations in Saudi Arabia.
UPDATE 2/2 8:10 a.m.: A rep for Starbucks reached out to clarify that the "gender wall" at the Riyadh Starbucks has not collapsed; rather, the store is undergoing renovations. (The coffee shop does adhere to local customs which require single men and families to be separated.) The company issued the following statement:
Starbucks in Saudi Arabia adheres to the local customs by providing separate entrances for families as well as single people. All our stores provide equal amenities, service, menu, and seating to men, women and families. We are working as quickly as possible as we refurbish our Jarir store, so that we may again welcome all customers in accordance with local customs.