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Aug 31, 2011 07:38 AM

Are "Restaurants" Required to have Bathrooms? [moved from Manhattan]

And by "restaurants," I;m talking Subway, Dunkin Donuts, etc... These are eating establishments, right? Shouldn't there be a place available for me to wash my hands before eating at the restaurant? Or if I'm a customer, shouldn't I be able to pee after I eat or drink my 64 oz. coffee?

I know (we ALL know) that Starbucks provides. Why not these other places?

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      1. re: boredough

        The last provision in that law is also interesting: "Patrons are not permitted to use any toilets where the patron must walk through the kitchen or any food storage or food preparation area. "

        I've seen that one violated a number of times, most notably in a certain very popular WEST VILLagE restaurant. Though I think they got dinged by the DoH for that.

      2. Every state or municipality has rules governing this, and they can vary a lot.

        In general the laws governing places that sell liquor are more demanding, and if the place provides seating, it is more likely to require access. Often that access does not need to be on premises, a public bathroom within a certain distance will often meet the criteria, but again this varies from location to location.

        6 Replies
        1. re: KaimukiMan

          KM, Manhattan is a special case. There are way more people wanting to pee, than there are places where you are welcome to pee. For the year I lived on E. 49th St., I estimate I had to spend $22 for each time I peed away from home.

          1. re: Veggo

            WHOA!!! Whereinhell did you pee that cost 22 bucks each time; the Ritz Carleton???

            1. re: mucho gordo

              These are averages. I could get in and out from my Irish pub on 2nd Ave.& 50th St. for a corned beef sandwich and a Guinness and a pee for $17; a burger and glass of house red and a pee at Smith & Wollensky @ 49th. & Lex was $27.

            2. re: Veggo

              Yes, im sure Manhattan is a special case, and the moderators were probably wrong to move this from the Manhattan board. Still it is not at all uncommon to restrict the use of toilet facilities to paying customers, and moreover not to require even that - Honolulu has NO requirement for a restaurant to provide toilet facilities regardless of size, unless alcohol is sold and served. Then the front door of the establishment must be within a certain number of feet of a restroom, and (a recent change) it must be on the same floor in the same building. Once you start adding in places that were 'grandfathered' under older rules, people should never automatically assume that just because they serve food they provide facilities.

              I know of one or two locations/stores/restaurants of national fast food chains here that have locked their bathrooms and do not allow the public to use them because of problems with drug dealing and use that were impossible to control.

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                One can appreciate the unwelcome nuisance factor to the restos you point out, at the same time wanting to accomodate real customers.

                As Rick said in Casa Blanca: "I can also understand the point of view of the hound."
                In today's world, ya gotta pay to pee away from home. Oh Auntie Em!

          2. It should be a restaurant's right not to have a bathroom. However, I guarantee that I will NEVER eat in that establishment. Is there anything worse than ordering your food, needing to pee and realizing that there is no bathroom? Recently that happened to me and I had to spend over 20 minutes running down the block to find a bathroom, leaving my poor friend alone. If I had known their bathroom wasn't working that day I would have insisted to have gone elsewhere.

            27 Replies
            1. re: NicoleFriedman

              Ditto for me. I think it's just plain bad business not to provide a place for customers to do their business.

              1. re: Isolda

                when you are moving into an older building the plumbing simply may not be available or be prohibitively expensive, especially for a small mom-and-pop type operation. We are talking six figures sometimes, other times it is simply not possible at all. The existing plumbing may be at capacity (yes there are regulations governing that), or it may be too far away to be able to connect a drain line, especially from a toilet, or there may be structural issues that prevent the installation of drain lines. In other locations, depending on the type of establishment, there simply may not be enough room. Providing an accessible restroom (and yes, a new restroom MUST be accessible) means a minimum of approximately 6 feet by 8 feet. If you are operating a small deli with no seating in a minimal storefront space, those 48 square feet may just not be there.

                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  I have spent painful tens of $000's on friggin' ADA restrooms. If I have to hear again about the magical 5 foot turning radius, hand rails that can support an elephant, 48 inch doorways, cabinets that can't protrude more than 4 inches, crossover valves so hot water isn't hot enough to be hot, insulated hot water lines under sinks so wheel-chairers won't burn their thighs, I will puke in my own $10K toilets. I am not without heart, and I'm practical, but I have been raped by ADA. Most recently, in Farmers Branch Texas, I added a bathroom to a manufacturing plant, and had a cram-down of a 30 foot vent for a simple fart fan, and a $1k roof penetration, which will leak by year 2. Just goofy. And in Manhattan, where every square foot costs big time, rest rooms the size of handball courts are an albatros.

                  1. re: Veggo

                    lest anyone think veggo is exaggerating, here is the link to the ADA requirements.


                    its another one of those things where if you are starting with a clean piece of paper, its not so horrendous, but having to go back and retrofit can be a nightmare.

                  2. re: KaimukiMan

                    Oh, I don't question that it might be problematic for a small business to add a toilet that's up to code. I'm just saying I won't be eating in such a place if I can avoid it.

                    The real issue isn't that restaurants don't have bathrooms, it's that in the US, restaurants seem to be the only places likely to have public toilets in large cities. In every other country I've visited, there were other places to go, even if they were totally filthy. If you've really got to go, you don't mind squatting over a "Turkish" toilet in some French city. To my mind, that's a lot more civilized than having to go to a restaurant to order food you don't want just so you can use the toilet.

                    1. re: Isolda

                      U.S. cities that have tried to provide public rest rooms have been overwhelmed by the homeless, drug users, and denizens who practice unusual behaviors, plain and simple.

                      1. re: Isolda

                        In large cities you will find free rest rooms in department stores, open to the public and generally clean.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            Except that you are not likely to find many supermarkets in the middle of a major city, e.g midtown Manhattan, maybe in Manahattan, Kansas <VBG>

                            1. re: bagelman01

                              Whole Foods is a supermarket with several branches in Manhattan (and I don't mean Manhattan, Kansas), all of which have bathrooms. And the Columbus Circle one is in what many would consider the middle of the city.

                              1. re: small h

                                Whether Whole Paycheck is a supermarket or a specialty grocer is a whole nother discussion, but they are not the typical pressed for space small Manhattan supermarket, such as Sloan's, Associated, D'Agostino's, etc (Yes, I know I'm dating myself woth the choice of names, but I haven't maintained a Manhattan office since 1987). The Whole Paychecks and Fairways are the exception to the typical small sized, limited selection big city supermarkets.

                                And, as Whole Paychecks locations were built in recent times they were not grandfathered by predating zoning and handicapped regulations as were many of the old time Manahattan stores.

                                1. re: bagelman01

                                  Whole Foods sells - among other things, obviously - vegetables, toilet paper, fish, coffee, aluminum foil, rice, milk and flour, so I don't know what else to call it but a supermarket. I've never been in any other supermarket that had a public bathroom, though. That's what Barnes & Noble is for. Or Starbucks. Or public libraries!

                                  P.S. D'Agostino's & Associated are still around, but I haven't seen a Sloan's ever, I don't think, and I've lived in Manhattan since '83.

                                  1. re: small h

                                    That's what Barnes & Noble is for? Pissing in a bookstore? Tell that to the former Borders' employees. As to public libraries' rest rooms? I won't go there. Literally.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      B&N may be bankrupt, but it has a crowded behemoth of a store in Union Square, right across the park from the Whole Foods, as it happens, in case you'd like to do a bathroom-to-bathroom comparison. There are also plenty of libraries in Manhattan, which is the area this post was initially written about. So I'm not really sure what your point is.

                                      1. re: small h

                                        Thank you for the offer to do the bathroom-to-bathroom comparisons in supermarkets, bookstores, libraries, and other public places.

                                        Not my thing. So I have no point, and I take it all back. You may have the privilege all to yourself.

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          You seem angry. I'm not sure why.

                                          1. re: small h

                                            Tired.Thanks for pointing it out. I'll pay my debt to the sandman and come back cheerfully.

                                            1. re: Veggo

                                              Understood. I hope you get a good night's rest, and that you never have to travel too far to find a clean and well-appointed bathroom.

                                    2. re: small h

                                      Fairway has public bathrooms too. Once I was on a bus going home and a very small (maybe 3) year old child stood up on his seat and started pointing and yelling "Fairway Fairway. Mommy I have to use the bathroom." I just burst out laughing.

                                      And I agree, always go to lending libraries (the 3rd floor Research Library bathroom is really nice), starbucks, b&n. Or if I'm with DH, he says "oh I'll just get a drink at the bar!" . I guess that's his way of getting a drink out of my bathroom needs. heehee

                                      1. re: LNG212

                                        Good to know about Fairway. I wonder if you get rammed with carts in the bathroom the way you do on the selling floor. I usually endeavor to spend <10:00 in there, 'cause the chaos makes me anxious.

                                        1. re: small h

                                          Actually it's almost like you don't even have to go in the store. Go in the door that enters right at the staircase, up the stairs, hard right turn at top of stairs and directly to the rear of the store. You're never even on the "selling floor". (74th street location directions)

                              2. re: Veggo

                                There is no public restroom at my local supermarket in Manhattan.

                                1. re: melo7

                                  Wow! I nominate Manhattan as the toughest place to pee in the world.

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    Either Manhattan, or a single aisle airplane after meal service with the service cart blocking the way (or the fasten seat belt sign turned on).

                                    Last year, I had a flight from Argentina back to the US on an extended range single aisle jet. The crew served dinner and then blocked the aisle with three carts for more than 2 hours. Finally, a slightly inebriated 20 something announced in Spanish that if they didn't move the carts, he was going to pee into the coffee pot that he had grabbed from the cart.............

                                    This actually got a purser to clear the aisle.

                                    I usually avoid single aisle planes on long flights, but this was an equipment substitution.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      Not at all. With all the bars and hotels you never have to walk more than 3 blocks to find a place to pee.

                                      1. re: melo7

                                        Speaking as someone who visits Manhattan semi-regular purely as a tourist and walks all over the place to explore the nooks and crannies, I've come to rely on Starbucks. Yeah, not a big fan of their coffee, but they almost always have clean bathrooms with minimal lines. Good place to stop for a restroom break, put up the feet for a few minutes while I sip on a small cheap drink that I purchased to justify the use of their facilities.

                                        Sure I don't need to buy anything, but I figure it's worth it for the convenience and break. And I'm not tempted by the rest of their offerings. Unlike Veggo's method where I too would end up spending way too much if I just dropped into a bar.

                            2. re: KaimukiMan

                              That's the great thing about living in CA. They tear down everything after 50 years, so no bathroom problems.

                        1. 'Take out' places do not require a bathroom.

                          1. Most of those places you name DO have a restroom in Florida, but not all. If they're not having sit-down service they're not legally obligated to have a public restroom. Two little plastic tables and four chairs is well under the limit for having to have rest room facilities, and some of the stores are jammed into spaces that are so tight there isn't anywhere to PUT a bathroom.