My local Starbucks (the one at Whitley Heights) has no bathroom. This is a problem for a place that offers wireless internet at $40/month (via TMobile) and serves caffeinated beverages. Even worse, there are no bathrooms within walking distance… the Whitley Heights Market next door serves pizza, there a Subway also in the same strip mall, and neither have a public restroom. The only public restroom nearby is at the sushi restraurant (who’s name changes so often I refuse to reference it), but its for customers only.
While complaining about this with friends, I learned this isn’t the only Starbucks in the city that lacks a bathroom. However, this is the one that frustrated me enough to look up if there were any local laws that might require public businesses to provide restroom facilities…
And what I learned may blow your toilet lid off: while city laws only require access to restrooms for the handicapped, State code DOES require local businesses of ALL types to provide restroom facilities for their customers. The problem is that its up to local authorities to enforce these codes, which it appears they have failed to do.
Details backing up this expose after the jump.
The State of California includes the Uniform Plumbing Code as part of its building code that sets safety and common sense standards that need to be followed by all. Most of the Code’s contents are boring for the layman, as they apply to types of piping and infrastructue that must be followed while installing and maintaining safe and reliable plumbing. However, the same Code also stipulates that all public businesses must provide restroom facilities for its customers.
Summarized by the American Restroom Association:
2003 UNIFORM PLUMBING CODE (UPC) Published by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials
413.2.2 Fixtures accessible only to private offices shall not be counted to determine compliance with this section. establishments with an occupant load of one hundred (100) or more shall be provided with separate facilities for employees and customers. Customer and employee facilities may be combined for occupant loads less than one hundred (100).
413.3 Separate Facilities
Separate toilet facilities shall be provided for each sex.
(2) In occupancies serving ten (10) or fewer people, one (1) toilet facility, designed for use by no more than one (1) person at a time, shall be permitted for use by both sexes.
(3) In business and mercantile occupancies with a total floor area of fifteen hundred (1500) square feet (139.5 m 2 ) or less, one (1) toilet facility, designed for use by no more than one (1) person at a time, shall satisfy the requirements for serving customers and employees of both sexes.
413.5 Facilities in Mercantile and Business Occupancies Serving Customers
413.5.1 Requirements for customers and employees shall be permitted to be met with a single set of restrooms accessible to both groups. The required number of fixtures shall be the greater of the required number for employees or the required number for customers.
413.5.2 Fixtures for customer use shall be permitted to be met by providing a centrally located facility accessible to several stores. The maximum distance from entry to any store to this facility shall not exceed five hundred (500) feet (152.4 m).
In their attempt to clarify this even further, the Restroom Association sent a message to the board that evaluates the code: “Is it the intent of the 2003 UPC to require a toilet facility for customers, patrons, and visitors of all mercantile and business establishments?” To which they replied:
Yes. The general provisions of Section 413.0 and Table 4-1 have requirements for employee use and public use in a number of occupancies including assembly, institutional, and office or public buildings.
More on this soon… in the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter…
photo by Rita Rose