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Would you eat sans bathroom?

The thread on unisex bathrooms made me think of a frustration I have; as a woman with a weak bladder, I almost never eat anywhere without a bathroom. There have been a few not so fun occasions when I didn't think to ask and I had go restaurant to restaurant for several blocks looking for a place to go while I left my friends by themselves. I can understand restaurants, especially small ones, turning away non paying customers, but if you're sitting in, do you think they should let you use their bathroom? Somehow I doubt the workers are running across the street on their breaks:)

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  1. finding a public restroom these days anywhere is nearly impossible. a fast food joint with 4 seats in the house or a take out joint without any seats should be required to offer a clean restroom for the general public, not just for customers.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Gastronomos

      So that when I'm eating somewhere I would be required to see and hear Mr. and Mrs. General Public and their squalling brood tromping by my table just so they can use the restroom? I don't think so. For customers, yes, for the general public no.

      1. re: Gastronomos

        Why? A restaurant has a right to reserve their restrooms for paying customers.

        That being said, I only eat in a restaurant that has working and relatively clean bathrooms

        1. re: Gastronomos

          Let's compromise on this issue, I do NOT feel small fast food places or take out joints should be required to offer clean rest rooms to the public. However I would say, landlords or commercial property owners, should have an obligation to provide public rest rooms in their buildings. If the location of the bathroom is in a space occupied by a small take out restaurant, the sq foot should not be chargeable from landlord to tenant. The tenant then opens the bathroom to the public. Don't squeeze the lil man.

          How's that?

        2. Where street food reigns, yes.

          Actually, I need a sink more often, and in East Asia I haven't had a problem finding one. Now, locating soap...

          1. Not if it's a dine-in place. I need to be able to wash my hands. I guess I could always bring the purel with me...

            1. Don't all restaurants or eating establishments have bathrooms? Isn't it absolutely unsanitary to not have one? Besides the weak bladder scenario, what about just needing to wash your hands? I imagine it's illegal to have a resto without a bathroom.

              11 Replies
              1. re: Wawsanham

                At least in VA, a sit down restaurant has to have a customer bathroom to operate. I assume it's the same for all states, but I can only speak to VA with certainty.

                  1. re: NicoleFriedman

                    NYC law sez:

                    "All food service establishments with a seating capacity of 20 or more except those in operation on or before December 5, 1977 must provide appropriately identified and maintained toilet facilities for their patrons. Employee toilet facilities may be used by patrons only if they do not pass through a food preparation or utensil washing area to access them and there are separate facilities for each sex."

                    I've been in a fair number restaurants that don't obey the second sentence, but I don't think I've ever seen a place with 20+ seats that had no bathroom at all. You have?

                    1. re: jeanmarieok

                      Boston is like New York....very small or old restaurants are grandfathered. I try to avoid those restaurants for this very reason.

                    2. re: Wawsanham

                      Where I live, if there are seats there has to be a bathroom by law. If I really need one I am more than happy to buy something for the privilege. Toilet paper and soap don't come free!

                      1. re: Wawsanham

                        Less than a certain number of seats allows them to avoid having a restroom for the public/customers

                        1. re: Gastronomos

                          <having a restroom for the public/customers>

                          But the public isn't a customer. No…
                          Don't agree that a restaurant has an obligation to take care of the public. I've been in restaurants where it's 'customers only' and the non customer is properly vetted by the establishment…no problem with that.
                          Maintaining a restroom for the customer is difficult enough let alone the entire non customer population.

                        2. re: Wawsanham

                          They are required to have bathrooms available for the STAFF but they are not required to have them for customers.

                          1. re: PotatoHouse

                            Here are the regulations in my county:

                            Toilet facilities shall be easily accessible from the interior of the establishment.

                            Toilets shall be provided to patrons where on-premises food consumption is provided.

                            Patrons may not gain access to toilets by passing through food preparation, food storage, or utensil washing areas.

                            Toilets must be mechanically vented, have sinks with mixing valves, dispensed soap, hand-drying facilities and self-closing doors.

                            (Note: It would be advisable to plan for patron toilet(s) if
                            considering applying for future on-premise food consumption.)

                            It's a pretty big decision when you're opening a brand new, little take out joint, whether to pop in a table or two.

                          2. re: Wawsanham

                            Some are grandfathered in so they don't have to provide restrooms.

                          3. I thought it was required to have facilities for paying customers...health code, somewhere for staff to "go" and wash their hands, somewhere for customers to wash their hands...

                            ...maybe not?

                            1. I don't think I've ever been to a sit-down restaurant that didn't have washroom facilities. Street food doesn't have washroom facilities, but that's part of why it's cheap.

                              As far as public restaurants go, I don't think it's fair to a restaurant or to its customers to demand that they make their washroom public. Many people judge a restaurant based on the cleanliness of its washrooms - if you make it public access, it's either going to get dirtier, or they're going to have to spend more staff resources monitoring it an mucking it out.

                              But I do think that if you have a restaurant with seating facilities, washroom access for customers should be part of that.

                              1. The short answer is yes, I have eaten at places that do not have bathrooms.

                                In the US, the only time you are likely to run into this question is at a very small place that has very little seating. It's mostly a carryout situation. Even in places that have a law about this, carryout are usually exempt, and some carryouts put in a couple of tables or a few stools at a counter, skirting the law. In those situations, it's mostly a pretty fast meal and there is probably a franchised quick food establishment nearby to get a cup of coffee and use the facility in an emergency.

                                1. It wouldn't occur to me to check if a restaurant has a bathroom; I would just assume it did.

                                  Yesterday I had a nice lunch at a new to me restaurant. The bathrooms were down some fairly steep stairs. (The building is probably 100 years old.) To people with certain disabilities, this would be the same thing as no bathrooms. Really unfortunate situation.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: ChillyDog

                                    but in listed historic buildings, there's not always much anyone can do about it...they can't tear down the building, and they can't structurally alter it enough to allow lifts/ramps/etc.

                                    This is an extraordinarily common conundrum in Europe.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      I remember having dinner with my husband, and being very pregnant. Needed the bathroom, server directed me. The bathroom was soooooo small- I couldn't fit!!!! I was never more embarrassed in my life. (And I really had to pee!)

                                    2. re: ChillyDog

                                      This is very common in Toronto and yes, unfortunate. It restricts some people's options dramatically. I got a glimpse of it when my kids were still babies in strollers - if I was alone there was no way for me to use the restroom other than carry baby downstairs in arms and put her on the floor (on a mat of course!). Also, it's possible to go with baby in a carrier. Ask me how I know.
                                      Lest anyone think I was ruining adult dining experiences with my kids, these were local cafés and hole-in-the-walls which were happy to have my mid-afternoon business and my outings kept me sane. Also, my kids are perfect ;)

                                    3. I would eat somewhere with out a bathroom but I would be less likely if it is a long meal. I can go quite a long time without the facilities but copiuous amounts of water and or any alchohol and I will likely be there.

                                      1. I have GI issues, though they are better post-surgery than the years I was sick before surgery. There are many "hole in the wall" places I had to skip going to because there is no bathroom.

                                        As to why they don't let you use their own, it's often a violation of health code (see list of rules someone posted below) to have the public traipsing through food prep area, though I know of at least one place I've been to where I live where you literally walk through the kitchen and use the bathroom that the staff uses if you have to go. It's probably not legal.

                                        1. Any place in Nashville that serves food or drink must have at least one toilet and sink. Mrs. O and I went one Saturday with a lawyer friend and his GF to nearby Lebanon, TN for some antique-ing, and found a nice little sandwich shop near one of the malls where we stopped for a bite. My iced tea sort of topped the jug, as it were, so I asked about the restroom. "Don't have one, sorry," the nice lady replied. Our lawyer friend was aghast. "But if you serve FOOD … " and she just grinned. "This ain't Nashville, sir," she said sweetly. So I walked to the mall and used theirs.

                                          Now, I don't know what the requirements are here in L.A. County, but when I was driving around shooting real estate appraisal pics, I learned where all the McDonald's were, because an elderly guy driving around can develop an urgent urge pretty fast, and the McDonald's places all have open-to-all restrooms, mostly (not all) clean. I'd usually buy some token item by way of a thank-you, or even lunch.

                                          1. I didn't know much about NYC years ago when I was there but did know that I was going to somehow get to Bolo for dinner, alone. the transportation included more than just the subway, it was also a cab and waaayyy to much walking. feeling a little sick stomach approaching, during last part of expedition, I knew I needed a restroom. I dropped into a small restaurant to use their bathroom, asked if it was ok, dressed appropriately, they said sure. see I didn't know if Bolo would have a restroom and passing one on the walk seemed a good fit. it was Bolo wasn't.

                                            1. As a man of a certain maturity, much of the passage of my life is conditioned by the availability of toilets.

                                              Where I am, my understanding is that restaurants are required to provide toilets but cafes are not. I don't understand the reasoning for this but it does mean that if I decide on a greasy spoon breakfast, I also need to consider the subsequent need for a pee.

                                              By the by, my local council has recently closed a number of public toilet facilities, including the one in the nearby "village". It now contracts with, say, local cafes or bars that do have facilities to allow public access in return for the council paying them a small fee. Seems to work well - although they could do with improving the signage so that folk know which businesses are part of the scheme.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Harters

                                                That makes a lot of sense. Hopefully all will get with the program.

                                              2. How about a restaurant that is tries to create the feeling of eating in a restroom?


                                                The Magic Restroom Cafe is a chain that specializes in serving food in toilet shaped platters and tile the entire place to resemble a restroom.


                                                1. Here I've only ever encountered one sit-down restaurant that didn't have a restroom, I don't know if it was legal or not but nobody else tries it here so I doubt it. Maybe they had some temporary issue with their washroom and could get away with it temporarily but that was not stated at the time. They directed me next door to a large clothing store where the staff were rude and disinterested in getting me the key, sending me up and down stairs fruitlessly. I ended up using a nearby bar's restroom without asking (the layout made it easy and I've spent money there so I felt ok about it given my desperation). I complained royally to the restaurant staff who were sympathetic but just powerless, student-passing-through types.
                                                  I just can't reconcile a restaurant with no bathrooms. You may need to wash your hands, you're drinking and eating - a restroom is part and parcel of those things.

                                                  1. In some places in Asia (up through 2010), the expat list mags and sites still had lists of bathrooms, because there are still so few. Often these were qualified by "desperation" or posh-ness. You may need to know where the nearest Western-styled hotel is at all times.
                                                    Only a proliferation of KFC's has changed the need to tote a list, although I've been in at least 2 that only had a dining area hand washing sink.
                                                    Many, many sit down places have a sink area but absolutely no RR, even for staff.

                                                    1. When I'm in a supermarket, hardware store or some other place like that without facilities for customers, if I gotta go, I just meander back into the employees-only area and find what I need.

                                                      I know I'm in violation, but I haven't been caught yet. They've got too much else to do other than policing their store's own potty.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Sharuf

                                                        I usually ask and they never say no.