Small Business

Public Toilets and Private Burdens

Demanding access to businesses' restrooms comes with costs.

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Restrooms
Punpleng / Dreamstime.com

If there is anything more rewarding than making a personal sacrifice for a good cause, it's getting other people to do it for you. That's the thinking behind a lot of legislation at all levels of government that imposes costly mandates on private parties.

The impulse explains an ordinance proposed by a Chicago alderman who thinks there is inadequate access to restrooms in the city and wants someone besides the city to solve that problem.

Alderman David Moore was in a Subway restaurant when he saw a woman crying. She had urgently needed to relieve herself upon arriving there, she told him, but the staff wouldn't let her use the restroom until she bought something, even though she promised to make a purchase afterward. As it happened, she couldn't wait and wet herself. "It was humiliating" for her, Moore told the Chicago Sun-Times. Limiting access to paying customers, he said, "is inhumane."

His measure would compel any licensed business that provides "public toilet facilities to its customers" to open them to all "individuals who have an emergency" without demanding a purchase or charging a fee. Problem solved. The City Council would advance its humane agenda, and those in need would get to relieve themselves.

But someone would bear the burden, and as is often the case in Chicago, that someone would be business owners who have invested money, provided employment and offered goods and services to consumers. They would have to open their restrooms to anyone claiming dire need, regardless of the cost in additional maintenance.

The Illinois Restaurant Association promptly noted that during popular events, some establishments could be deluged with nonpaying people happy to take advantage of their restrooms, even if these places are not equipped to handle crowds. Some businesses might decide that staying open on St. Patrick's Day or during Lollapalooza is not worth the trouble.

Employees would have to clean up after untidy interlopers, and paying customers might find they have to wait in line behind those merely passing through. And pity the staffers assigned the task of determining who has a genuine emergency and who doesn't.

If the council thinks the problem warrants action, of course, it could meet that responsibility itself. The blindingly obvious way is to provide more free public toilets at the expense of the city, or rather, its taxpayers. If a public need exists, it's hard to see why the public shouldn't shoulder the burden.

But Chicago is infamous for its lack of these facilities. L stations used to have them, but they were closed decades ago. If that Subway outlet's policy was inhumane to one person, the Chicago Transit Authority's decision is cruel to millions.

Chicago is one of many cities that feel no obligation to make it easy for people to perform an unavoidable physical function. Lawmakers have learned that public toilets offer convenient sites for drug use, sex, vandalism, overnight occupation by the homeless, and rampant slobbery.

San Francisco, where pedestrians know to watch their step on frequently fouled sidewalks, finally hired workers to monitor the use of its public toilets. But these employees cost $1 million a year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, on top of the money to buy, install, and maintain the facilities.

Putting the onus on private businesses would allow Chicago to ameliorate the problem at no cost to taxpayers. But it wouldn't be free for the businesses affected. Prostitutes and heroin addicts might find the retailers' restrooms, like public toilets, a suitable haven for illicit activities.

The episode that provoked Moore is not necessarily common enough to warrant a city response. Most people are willing to make a small purchase to use a restaurant's restroom, and most restaurants don't take a hard line on the matter. The rare instance when someone behaved unreasonably, with awful consequences, shouldn't be treated as the norm.

Assuming the council doesn't want to provide a network of public toilets, it could approach retailers with an incentive rather than a command. Yearly grants or tax incentives for establishments that are willing to furnish unrestricted access would open a lot of stalls. The city would get what it wants at a reasonable cost without inflicting pain on business owners.

It's always tempting for elected officials to impose mandates on business, allowing them to claim credit while leaving the heavy lifting to others. But private companies that are expected to meet alleged social needs at their own expense are entitled to tell governments: After you.

© Copyright 2017 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  2. The Left: making the whole world a toilet

  3. Instead of a new law/regulation/ordinance, could not the alderman just conduct public shaming by reading the name and address of the particular store AND the specific employee into the public record as a matter of fact for the discussion? Then if the media did its job they would pick up the story and run with it. What the Subway person did was unkind. As described the woman was clearly in a hurry to releave herself and had promised to pay for something afterward. That promise is key. A reasonable member of a civil society would have allowed the transactiom to have occured in a manner that didn’t result in the woman urinating all over the restaurant. Urine is a healthcode violation, of which the store clerk was a direct cause by refusing to allow the woman the relief she desperately sought. Public shaming is the order of the day. As the store operator had little to lose from allowing the transaction to occur in reverse, but should lose significant social capital now as a result of this decision.

    1. A reasonable member of a civil society would have allowed the transactiom to have occured in a manner that didn’t result in the woman urinating all over the restaurant.

      Right.

      Urine is a healthcode violation, of which the store clerk was a direct cause by refusing to allow the woman the relief she desperately sought.

      Wrong.

    2. What the Subway person did was unkind.

      But perfectly in line with keeping her job, no doubt.

      1. ” . . .the staff wouldn’t let her use the restroom until she bought something.”

        If we learned nothing else from the Clinton Foundation (and other prostitutes) it is this: ALWAYS get your money up front.

        1. This is what happened. People who want something for free will lie to get it and the store owners know that.

    3. The employee was following the policy they’ve been told to enforce, and possibly threatened with discipline if they don’t.

      As described the woman was clearly in a hurry to releave herself and had promised to pay for something afterward. That promise is key.

      That promise is unenforceable. Once word spreads, the homeless population will be making similar “promises” and spend the whole day masturbating in their restroom.

      1. That promise is unenforceable.

        Bingo. I’m 99.99% certain that if the woman had laid a $5 on the counter and said, “Your drink’s on me, let me use the restroom.” no one would’ve batted an eye at anything.

        There were obviously plenty of people watching, it’s not like anyone was going to steal her money and, even then, it sounds like $5 would’ve been a fair deal.

      2. “Once word spreads, the homeless population will be making similar “promises” and spend the whole day masturbating in their restroom.”

        Don’t give Crusty any ideas!

      3. It really boils down to common sense. As usual, there’s no need for government to get involved. If the woman looked like an honest person who would make a purchase after using the facility, the employee could have easily let her do so first. If she was a homeless person looking to use their bathroom for their daily bath and then bolt, then the employee was reasonable in denying her. The story doesn’t really tell us which is the case, so all we can do is speculate. To assume that letting the occasional citizen in an uncomfortable position use your bathroom will somehow open the business to a biblical flood of prostitues and junkies is a little far fetched though. They still have the discretion to turn away whoever they wish. Some matters are cut and dry, some are not. There’s a lot to be said for being decent and understanding to people, though. You can be a Libertarian and also not a dick.

        1. Yeah, pretty much this. I have a hard time imagining a situation where there are so many homeless people and drug addicts trying to use the bathroom that you have to lock it up and demand purchases. And even then some discretion should be used to allow ordinary people who just happen to have an emergency through.

          1. I’m in the Loop right now. I can absolutely state that there are so many homeless wanting to use bathrooms here that the facilities need to be locked up.

            LOVE your handle Hazel.

          2. you must not spend much time in any big city. Smaller ones where I spend time already have that problem. It IS a problem.

            How bout Chicago reopen the loos built as part of the El system….. public problem, public solution? Why not. I know Paris, the one over in France, used to have a horrible problem with folks releasing pressure all over the city, making some areas intolerable for decent folks that don’t appreciate the stink of stale urine and other such things. They finally realised they had to provide some means to address the problem, as the only way it was going to go away was if the people causing it would, first. Seems anyone could walk for a few miles and never find a pissoir available.

            Now, if Chicago were to DEAL with their homeless drifter population problem, there might not be so much pressure to be relieved. But, Rahmie Boy is too busy fooling about with “important” stuff, like figuring out how to prevent Chicago residents from having handguns concealed upon their persons for self-defense

          3. Never lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, eh? A lot of stores solve the problem by not having restrooms for anybody. As a matter of fact, this is how BART (the San Francisco subway system) solved the problem. It sounds like some of Chicago’s transit agencies have taken a similar approach. On the other hand, I can tell you to never ever go into a restroom in Berkeley unless you absolutely have to.

            If the alderman truly wants to prevent problems like this, he should push an ordinance allowing stores to turn away anyone they damn well please for any reason they damn well please, because as it stands a rigid company policy is the only way to both safeguard your property and avoid a lawsuit.

          4. Never been to the San Francisco Bay Area, eh? Nothing like dropping by a bookshop in Berkeley after someone else just had their fix and a quick wash-up. Tip: If the guy before you has crazy eyes, wet yourself. It’ll be more sanitary than going in.

            Since the activists raised a stink about denying the homeless restroom privileges, most businesses went either to the “Customers Only” route or just stopped having restrooms altogether. The best solution is to pass an ordinance that you can deny toilet privileges to anyone you want for any reason. Then employers could give their employees discretion without worrying about being sued.

        2. “It really boils down to common sense.”
          Sure, sure…
          But…
          If “common sense” were actually common, we wouldn’t need laws against jay walking, policies about who can or can’t use the bathroom, or have needed a constitutional amendment to give women the vote.

          Fact is, whatever you think “common sense” is?, someone at that Subway (employees, supervisor, manager, owner, someone) didn’t have it. So relying on it is to explicitly rely on what already failed once.

          “There’s a lot to be said for being decent and understanding to people, though. You can be a Libertarian and also not a dick.”
          There is a lot to be said about being decent and understanding. But while you don’t have to be a dick to be a libertarian, you have to accept that a certain amount of common sense-defying dickery will occur.
          ________
          ?And you should remember that your idea of “common sense” is going to be different from everyone else’s. There is, in fact, shockingly little common ground in what counts as “common sense”.

          1. I visit SF several times a year, usually for Giants games (Pro tip: the Starbucks on 4th and Brannan has a key code bathroom, but the staff there is cool and will give it to pretty much any clean-ish human being). And I live just outside downtown Sacramento, which also has a rather large problem with homeless people generally making a mess everywhere. I’ve seen what people who don’t give a damn will do to a public restroom, and I have no problem with businesses locking them up and using their discretion as to who gets to use it. I’d say as a general rule of thumb, if you can’t smell the person from behind the counter or spot more than 3 stains on their person, let em blow it up. I’m sure most of us have been out in an unfamiliar city and felt the Browns making that push to the Super Bowl.

      4. If homeless people are spending all day masturbating in the restroom, you can call the cops.

        Personally, it seems some reasonable judgement and civility is called for. Under normal circumstances, you don’t charge people to use the restroom, or have a drink of tap water, for example. These are simply polite social norms. If you have a problem with homeless people excessively using the restroom, then use some judgement and discretion and ask them to leave.
        Having a blanket rule requiring ordinary strangers to make purchases in order to use the restroom is rude. The employee should have some discretion to decide who is a problem as who is just a random stranger that has to pee.

        1. Clearly not in touch with the realities of a big city with a large homeless population.
          Those “homeless” represent a big voting block and politicians will do everything, they can get away with, to make life easier on them and rougher on just about everyone else, especially those evil, greedy businesses.
          That goes to the extent of “the cops” being told to keep “hands off” the homeless – they can’t pay the fine of a citation, anyway.

    4. Instead of a new law/regulation/ordinance, could not the alderman just conduct public shaming by reading the name and address of the particular store AND the specific employee into the public record as a matter of fact for the discussion?

      Because the employee, no doubt, is behind the policies. What good would naming somebody following his employer’s policies do?

      And, as mentioned in the article, the alderman could fight for more public toilets…

      What the Subway person did was unkind.

      In what way? Toilets are a finite resource and they should go to the people whose money is supporting them financially.

      As described the woman was clearly in a hurry to releave herself and had promised to pay for something afterward.

      Nobody lies. Ever! It’s why hookers often let their “clients” fuck them BEFORE they get their money.

      Urine is a healthcode violation, of which the store clerk was a direct cause by refusing to allow the woman the relief she desperately sought.

      Yup, nobody has a job with rules they don’t much like enforcing but don’t really have the option of ignoring them. “BUT SHE REALLY NEEDED IT”, I have to assume, is NEVER heard by such establishments. What an asshole…not ignoring his employer for the sake of a non-customer using a toilet he/she likely has to also clean.

    5. Urine is a healthcode violation, of which the store clerk was a direct cause by refusing to allow the woman the relief she desperately sought.

      The store clerk caused this woman to plan her outing so poorly that she ignored the urgency of her need to urinate for what might have been hours? The store clerk caused her to skip maybe a half-dozen more convenient opportunities for using a toilet? Geez, these fast-food employees have so much power over our lives!

      The store clerk caused nothing. Adults are responsible for controlling their own biological functions, and for controlling and monitoring those of children in their care.

      Also, if you think Chicago is stingy about public restrooms, try Europe. In Spain and Italy, every public toilet is a paid public toilet because they’re only in restaurants and museums.

  4. A friend of mine shared a story about living in NYC. The young clerk at the store she purchased breakfast from 5 days a week and sometimes afternoon drink on her way to and from work, had denied her washroom use based on lack of purchase. My friend raised this immediately with the manager recounting how she had just made a purchase that very morning as was her routine. The manager recognizing this good and valuable customer immediately took to admonishing the employee about his misapplication of policy intent via strict interpretation and told the clerk and my friend that she had an unlimited pass for the facility.

    1. Dollars to donuts the manager had insisted on a literal interpretation of the policy when talking to the employees in private, and was pretending they hadn’t in front of the customer in order to keep their business. A few minutes later, the employee asks the manager why he totally contradicted himself, and the manager tells the employee to find another job if he doesn’t like this one.

      I’d been the employee in that situation in years past. Working in the service industry sucks.

      1. I imagine these policies depend on whether it’s an independent owner or a chain. Chain guy isn’t going to bend any rules.

    2. Your friend sounds like a real asshole to the employees who your friend demands follow their asinine policies.

      Perhaps your friend shouldn’t be in business if they expect employees to follow policies that your friend seems to think are absolutely moronic.

  5. I just visited Budapest and Prague. Everywhere we went, there were public toilets which required a nominal fee (approximately 50 cents) to use the toilet. The toilets were supported by an employee who kept it clean and monitored use. Easy, logical and avoids the problems. In contrast I live on Miami Beach, where there are no public toilets other than for those visiting the beach (and those are usually dirty). I was visiting a Ritz Carlton this weekend for an event, and when I went to use the restroom on the first floor found them locked to anyone other than those with a room key. Apparently they have a problem with people coming into the hotel to use the restroom since there are none available to the public.

    I can only imagine if anyone, public or private, actually put in a pay per use toilet, the government would be accused of discriminating against the homeless and the poor. So no one has them instead. Equality and political correctness for all!

    1. Add the UK, France and Austria, at least to the list. All socialist (whatever they claim, they are), but you better have something between 50 cents and a dollar equivalent to do what anyone who eats or drinks must also do. It may seem strange to Americans used to free toilets, but then again, the last gas station toilet I was in was disgusting beyond all words, whereas the last public toilet that I used in Paris had just been clean spotless, and the Lady in charge was recleaning even before I made it to the sink to wash my hands.

      Maybe the city of Chicago can take a lesson from a city or country that they all claim to idolize.

      1. That may not be a fair comparison. Public toilets in touristy areas of Paris are probably under enormous pressure to be kept clean to keep the tourism bucks coming, while a gas station on the side of the interstate has little competition and no concern about winning over frequent patrons.

        SF has experimented with public toilets with disastrous results.

        1. Not to mention, as someone who’s been in the untouristy parts of France I’ve found the public toilets to be as squalid as anything in the US. Same in Spain or Japan.

      2. Americans used to free toilets

        Outside of being a paid customer somewhere, I am not used to any such thing here in NYC. All but one or two have been closed for decades. And for just as long they’ve been debating the sensible solution you described and not getting anywhere.

    2. Boston has some pay toilets. They’re usually barely usable abominations. Just because you pay doesn’t mean they’re clean.

      1. Are they the self-cleaning ones?

        Then there is a cultural component too. Americans have a somewhat more laissez-faire attitude when it comes to the cleanliness of public areas – by no means the worst but definitely more so than some of the more fastidious cultures out there.

    3. Bingo!

  6. But what happens if I need to use the bathroom and there are no businesses around, but I am near Alderman David Moore home, can I use his bathroom or at the very least use his front or back yard?

    1. Preferably both. And don’t worry, it is a gun free zone, so no police can come there.

      1. Nor would a connected individual like an alderman have the means to shoot you himself–or get away with it if he did.

  7. I predict a booming business in porta-potty rentals. Customers get a validation code to the “real” restrooms, well maintained (cough cough) and clean, wit a keypad lock. The freeloaders get pointed to the porta-potty. The porta potty rental is tax deducted.
    I also predict a giant increase in business insurance to cover the inevitable “unintended consequence” of theft (read asset forfeiture) due to drug use in “public” restrooms.
    I also predict further wailing by politicians of business leaving the city.
    I also predict nobody really giving a damn.

  8. Wet pants make bad law.

    1. I suggest that some “You should’ve gone before you left.” counter-legislation is needed.

  9. She had urgently needed to relieve herself upon arriving there, she told him, but the staff wouldn’t let her use the restroom until she bought something, even though she promised to make a purchase afterward.

    Only an idiot waits until they can’t possibly hold it anymore before trying to find a bathroom.

    1. To be fair, she could have been an idiot or she could have had bladder control issues or something. Bladder control problems can happen especially with women.

      1. Especially retired porn stars.

        1. Go on…….

      2. Or many of us as we get older.

        1. CYP already said “retired porn stars.”

      3. Two words: Crohn’s Disease.

        1. IL is the first state to have Ally’s Law. If the lady had a medical condition she already should’ve had access to a public or even a private employees only restroom. She could also sue the business that refused.

  10. The city of Chicago can build a public toilet or open a public corner for bidding to privat ecompanies if they want to serve their population. Why should a Subway franchise be forced to do it? An insurance company in the same block wouldn’t be forced to open up their restrooms.

    1. Consider the very small percentage of people who need a toilet that isn’t available, compared to those who are allowed to use them in those places. You really want to build for that tiny minority?

  11. I would think that a restaurant would want to avoid someone peeing on their floor. Sounds like the employees were just enforcing literally a poorly written rule. They should probably just let people leave their ID at the counter to use the bathroom if they intend to buy something.

    1. They should probably just let people leave their ID at the counter to use the bathroom if they intend to buy something.

      No potential complications or liability issues there!

      1. That is a good point. I’m just throwing out ideas.

        For the record I do NOT support forcing businesses to make their bathrooms open to all comers, just trying to come up with something that benefits everyone.

        1. Thinking about it or considering your thought further… every restaurant has a tip cup. It should be(come) understood that $1-2 in the tip cup ‘buys’ you access to the restroom (assuming the restrooms exist/are accessible/don’t violate health codes/etc.).

          I’m going with the original conclusion that the Alderman doesn’t realize that there are utterly dumb people in his ward and that protecting them all from themselves is a fool’s errand.

          1. So you pay the employee, not the business, for the use of the business facilities? That’s theft.

            1. So you pay the employee, not the business, for the use of the business facilities? That’s theft.

              It’s not theft on the part of the customer and the employees were charged with the care and management of the restrooms. The employer is free to dismiss any employee for bad decision-making, as per the contract, and/or free to renegotiate salary/spending based on bathroom profits. I’m fairly certain that collecting monies in lieu of restroom usages fits within most policy prescriptions even if only in the register overages assessed on the employees at the end of the night.

              Sure, the manager could force the employee to spend the $1-2 on something but this is getting to the point where one would unquestionably prove themselves to be an asshole.

    2. I could see maybe opening a tab. However, some of these those delayed payment systems require additional technical support/infrastructure and/or overhead that (e.g.) restaurants shouldn’t have to incur (further) simply to offer restrooms to the public.

      It should very much be kept in mind that the only reason the restrooms are available to begin with are by mandate. As Praveen R. points out above, the Lululemon, cell phone bling carts, and taco trucks aren’t obligated to provide shoppers or employees access to restrooms because reasons.

    3. Needing an ID to pee is discrimination!

  12. Targeting specific associations that are open to the public (by permission of the owners) for this law is inherently discriminatory.

    Like passing laws for blacks or passing laws for whites.

  13. I am baffled by these people’s attitudes that “NO, THIS IS THE PLACE I MUST PEE!” When I was in high school, I worked in retail, and we weren’t allowed to let people use our private restroom (located in the very back corner or the storeroom). I can’t tell you how many times I got yelled at for not letting people go, even though our store was literally within walking distance of a grocery store with restrooms, and a one minute drive from fast-food restaurants and gas stations. I’m assuming this Subway wasn’t just some isolated establishment out in the middle of nowhere, since the incident took place in Chicago, which really makes you question why the woman waited so long that there was no way she could have made a short drive or walk to another establishment.

  14. I think the apocryphal stories have gone far enough. Without proof, any story can be concocted to advance a platform.

    That Subway must have been in a really mean neighborhood.

    1. Could be, or maybe in a commercial area that has a lot of homeless around. I’ve been to plenty of urban Subways and other restaurants that have locked restrooms.

      1. A lot of places enforce those policies selectively. Many times when I offered to buy so,thing in exchange for using the restroom I was to,d it was not necessary, because I “didn’t look like the sort of person they’re actually worried about”. (Usually dressed in business attire in these situations). My guess is that they are more worried about some junkie or mentally ill type trashing their bathroom than they are letting people use the facilities without a purchase.

    2. I don’t know about the specific Subway, but Alderman Moore’s Ward is the 17th on the South Side. It includes Englewood and Auburn-Gresham, I certainly wouldn’t describe it as nice.

      Pretty much, when I hear “violence” and “Chicago’s South Side” used together in a sentence, that’s the main place I picture.

      1. If he couldn’t tell that she had peed herself and she had to tell him, that says a lot.

  15. “If there is anything more rewarding than making a personal sacrifice for a good cause, it’s getting other people to do it for you.”

    Government is nothing if not compassionate.

  16. Piss fresh.

  17. It would be a crappy law.

  18. IPISS.. you preload a radio tracking/timing device. if you enter a restroom, automatic deduction with added cost for length of stay

    1. P?per – You download the app on your phone and a portable toilet shows up when and where you need it.

  19. Sine the government could not maintain the subway systems bathrooms due to miss use then they should realize why private companies don’t want to allow anyone to use theirs. but alas the government will force them to do the governments job.

    1. Perhaps the government can pay businesses to hire robots for bathroom cleaning once they raise the minimum wage to $20/hr.

  20. Don’t know if they allow it in Chicago, but I have never had a problem using a Starbucks bathroom anywhere without a purchase (their bathrooms are much better than their coffee IMO).

    1. You probably don’t look like you’re a schizo homeless person or a junkie in the throes of a gritty smack battle. Basically if you don’t look like you’re going to shit all over the restroom formthem to clean up, then they don’t mind you using it.

    2. Yeah, it’s pretty wierd for a Subway to be locking the bathroom. Most fast food joints you can just walk right in and use it and nobody cares.

      1. Maybe in the boonies.
        In the SF bay area, even in non-crappy neighborhoods, it is common.
        Starbucks too.

  21. Then wouldn’t the eateries like Subway just not offer bathrooms AT ALL?

    1. Not in Florida. They’re mandatory for restaurants.

      1. You’d see a cottage industry in terminology for eateries to avoid the law, I’d assume.

        I’d hope FL would have also put into law that bathrooms are mandatory for customers and optional for non-customers.

  22. I could tell from the title that this was the rare Chapman article with a chance to be almost libertarian.

  23. Alderman David Moore was in a Subway restaurant when he saw a woman crying. She had urgently needed to relieve herself upon arriving there, she told him, but the staff wouldn’t let her use the restroom until she bought something, even though she promised to make a purchase afterward. As it happened, she couldn’t wait and wet herself.

    Yeah, I’m just going to go ahead and call Moore a flat-out bald-faced liar. This didn’t happen and he certainly wasn’t there to witness it.

    1. Subway will let you use the restroom even if you don’t buy anything if you look like you’re in distress – the guys behind the counter don’t really care and corporate isn’t locking the doors to everyone, just the hobos and junkies that want a place to shoot up.

    2. I’m not going to accept that *Alderman* Moore would be caught dead eating in a Subway, let along anonymously – and if he was there with his normal entourage the store isn’t going to do anything to make itself look bad. Like forbid someone from using the restroom.

    3. I’m not going to accept that even if Moore was willing to eat a Subway sandwich that he’d ever go down to the store himself – that’s what the interns are for.

    1. These are good points. Also, if I was ever forced to pee myself in public, I would flee the scene immediately instead of sitting around to cry and talk about it.

    2. Yeah, I’m just going to go ahead and call Moore a flat-out bald-faced liar. This didn’t happen and he certainly wasn’t there to witness it.

      I’m very much leaning towards this. It’s entirely possible, in Moore’s ward, that this woman spent 20 min. screaming about getting free food or complaining about her order and, upon finding out free refunds aren’t a thing Subway generally hands out on demand, pissed herself.

      No identifiable woman, no identifiable Subway, no police report, and an Alderman offering the crying shoulder to a woman who pissed herself? He might as well be explaining why there are no scars are after this woman got raped through glass coffee table.

      1. She shouldn’t have had to tell him she peed herself. It would have been obvious.

  24. The blindingly obvious way is to provide more free public toilets at the expense of the city, or rather, its taxpayers. If a public need exists, it’s hard to see why the public shouldn’t shoulder the burden.

    So, so, so close. You *almost* get it.

  25. I’m confused.

    Why does Chapman give a set of “alternatives” that, if actually proposed by the Alderman in question, would be opposed by Chapman?

    Or am I supposed to believe that new public spending to expand public bathroom access, whether it’s done by direct construction or paying off restaurants to open their doors, would be accepted and not just derided as more “nanny state” and “taxation is theft” stuff?

  26. I really really want to agree with this article, but this is the sort of thing that in a pure anarchy, would get you beaten up by the local vigilante group. Because such things are just not tolerated in a polite society.

    1. Or, perhaps, in a pure anarchy the sandwich artist wouldn’t have been so conditioned to hew rigidly to the letter of store policy in the first place.

      1. Something like that. In a total anarchy everyone would be heavily armed, and hence extremely polite. Assholes wouldn’t live very long.

        Homeless people who kept using the same bathroom would be beaten and driven elsewhere ,and business owners who demanded purchases from ordinary passers-by would get their house burned down by an angry mob.

        1. Something like that. In a total anarchy everyone would be heavily armed, and hence extremely polite. Assholes wouldn’t live very long.

          At the very least, the low man on the totem pole, regularly having larger guns drawn on him by employers and rage mobs, will be much more accepting of public urination.

          And all the pressure of vague public policy will be relieved.

      2. I think we’re all being exceedingly presumptuous about any/all evidence provided by politician.

        Moreover, there’s no reason to assume that public policy, or more publicly available toilets would affect things one way or the other.

        Sometimes restrooms are occupied or unavailable. Sometime between your 2nd and 5th birthday, learn to go before you leave. Sometime in the rest of that span learn that you aren’t the king/queen and sometimes you might, in fact, be forced to piss in an alley or otherwise get shit on you.

  27. RE: Public Toilets and Private Burdens
    Demanding access to businesses’ restrooms comes with costs.

    You would think the USA has more important topics to cover than who goes to what bathroom.
    I stand corrected.

  28. The rare instance when someone behaved unreasonably, with awful consequences, shouldn’t be treated as the norm.

    The only person treating it as the norm is the Alderman. Everybody else is either treating it as rare, not awful, or both. As an adult who hasn’t pissed himself but has torn his pants, worn his own vomit, as well as the urine and vomit of his children, I place those awfully embarrassing incidents below the 25+ people who were murdered in the Alderman’s ward since the embarrassing incident occurred. Not that the two have anything to do with one another (except both being a part of the Alderman’s job) but embarrassingly destroying my pants shouldn’t mean I get to walk into the nearest clothing store and demand free service (quite the opposite).

    Nobody died, was beaten to near death, or was forced at the point of a gun to consume liquids until they peed themselves publicly, so the law can go fuck itself.

    1. ^This 100%. Having embarrassing shit happen to you is part of being an adult. It just happens. I don’t like it when it happens to me, but it isn’t the end of the world. I don’t need therapy afterwards, or a crusading alderman to pass a law to ensure that I have a perfect life.

  29. If the council thinks the problem warrants action, of course, it could meet that responsibility itself. The blindingly obvious way is to provide more free public toilets at the expense of the city, or rather, its taxpayers. If a public need exists, it’s hard to see why the public shouldn’t shoulder the burden.

    I think I can show why: Given those choices, it would be more efficient to make use of existing facilities than to build new ones. I like Chapman’s grant-to-business-establishments idea, which would both share the burden & be efficient. However, I prefer nothing even better.

    1. I like Chapman’s grant-to-business-establishments idea, which would both share the burden & be efficient.

      Except it’s inefficient as there is no need and no burden to share. As far as we can tell, the alderman has only ever once had someone piss themselves in public in his presence. $1-5 would’ve covered the cost of admission to the restrooms.

      You may as well subsidize adult diapers for everyone who happens to think that bladder control is for suckers.

  30. The real problem is that Chicago government has not only outlawed pissing behind a dumpster in the alley, they’ve made it a sex offense.

  31. 20 yrs. ago, shortly after I’d made duty in Queens at a diner with a friend w whom I was conducting biz, diarrhea attacked as I was driving in heavy traffic over the Queensboro. A cop directing traffic in Manhattan let me park illegally, then I ran into an establishment, yelled, “Diarrhea! Quick!” (not the 1st time I’d done that in Manhattan), & got to use a toilet. I bought some loperamide sol’n at a small store, thanked the cop for minding my car, drove off…but that wasn’t the end of it. Close to home, it hit again, & I asked at Bronx House to use their toilet. The lady put up a verbal struggle, but I got to make duty there too.

    Andy Breckman & Ken Freeman on WFMU started the Bathroom Club, a mutual exchange between volunteer listeners of the use of their bathrooms.

  32. As usual, we let the exception drive the policy.

  33. IL already has Ally’s Law. I’ve heard a lot of whining about that one as it spreads. “It’s a security risk to be forced to allow someone to use your employees only restroom.” Odd how when I worked in a jewelry store I never found it a security risk. Yes my attention was off my work and hand on my gun but nobody ever claimed they had Crohn’s Disease so they could rob us.
    Same Chicken Little BS fear being spread in this article. Costly mandate to clean the bathroom you already have to clean???
    It may be sad that we make such laws but it’s even sadder that we have to pass laws to make businesses act humane because people seem to not be taught now to be nice anymore.

    IL’s Ally’s Law has recently given more bite. Now your business can be sued by the person instead of just getting a $100 fine.

    If you don’t want to have your bathroom open to the public don’t open a business that’s open to the public. It’s that simple. Stop being an ass and you might actually find you get more customers.

    1. No one mentioned anything about a disability and until proven otherwise, there’s no evidence the woman or the Subway exists. We can only assume and do so based on the alderman’s word. There’s nothing indicating that the restroom was even available at that moment should the woman have purchased something.

      That said, there’s no reason to assume it isn’t the Subway on the Marshfield just south of 69th, which has seen one murder practically in front of the store and one murder around the corner within the last 30 days. I can only assume your jewelry store got robbed every couple days for you to be so civil as to allow people to use the restroom, at gunpoint, because the law says so.

      1. My point was we needed Ally’s Law because people are jerks who never learned how to act decent to each other. Assuming the story is true, expecting someone in distress to go through a Subway line before using the bathroom is idiotic. Was she supposed to take her footlong into the bathroom with her? Don’t like laws like this, stop being a jerk.
        Our store was never robbed, and this was long before any law required bathroom access. We simply were not jerks. And when the law was passed it didn’t matter because we already were not jerks so we didn’t have to whine about “the costly burden” government was forcing upon us by forcing us to be decent to our customers.
        Seriously, if you need a law to tell you not let someone in obvious distress mess themselves unless they buy a cookie you need your head examined.
        I swear Reason and many of its commenters are progressive plants out to give libertarianism a bad name.

        1. My point was we needed Ally’s Law because people are jerks who never learned how to act decent to each other.

          My point was Ally’s Law isn’t widely accepted and, by your own admission, is poorly enforced where it is. Past/current performance suggests the alderman’s proposition would be redundant, inefficient, and largely unenforced. Enact legislation that effectively solves the problem, piss in the other and see which one gets full first.

          So no robberies at your jewelry store, but the average person off the street asking to use the restroom could, without warning, have a gun drawn on them? I don’t care what they say, you sir, are a gentleman.

          How is demanding they offer service to non-paying customers any less an infringement of their 1st, 4th, 5th Am. rights than saying they can’t touch the gun until after after a customer get violent infringe on their 2nd?

          1. I never pulled a gun on anyone either. Delusional paranoia is not a good basis for rule/law making.

            1. You put your hand on the gun. It’s an offensive act and you admit to it. The fact that you didn’t do so above the counter, in view, or otherwise warning or declaring what you were doing so demonstrates your commitment to civility in the matter.

              Either people are innocent until proven guilty or guilty until proven innocent. Assuming yourself to be innocent by default and others to be guilty by default clearly demonstrates your commitment to law/order/civility/etc.

  34. The tone of this article was as alarming as Climate Change alarmists. Their is a huge difference between accommodating someone with immediate needs and creating space for hookers give one-offs. While taking medication that prompted immediate bathroom use I was lucky not to have come across hard nose policies. In fact, some cities already have immediate need use policies and I haven’t seen any stories on Fox as a result. Having worked for years in restaurants we were always courteous to the folks attending large public gatherings(like runs, street fairs, and music festivals). They were our customers on other days. As for public restrooms, I’ve noticed that their seems to be less problems with facilities that are maintained throughout the day. I hope people went on Yelp and bad mouthed the restaurant that caused this women grief. They aren’t worth anyone’s business with an attitude like that.

    1. Their is a huge difference between accommodating someone with immediate needs and creating space for hookers give one-offs.

      GODAMNIT IT”S THE EXACT SAME SPACE!

      If you aren’t discriminating against someone because they need to pee and haven’t purchased something, you’re discriminating against someone because they dress like a prostitute. You act like you can pass, maintain, and enforce enough laws to prevent everyone on either side of the counter from being an asshole but it’s fundamentally not possible. Even if it were, it’s kinda like the old poker saying, if you sit down at the table and can’t identify the asshole, then it’s you. You’re the asshole.

  35. I kind of wish there were cited, verifiable sources for any of this.
    What is the old joke? How can you tell if a politician is lying?

  36. I completely support David Moore’s bill. Maintaining special public
    toilets is extremely inefficient compared with giving the public
    access to toilets that exist anyway. It would cost the city an arm
    and a leg to run an inadequate number of toilets. Requiring restaurants
    to admit any orderly person is simply a better solution.

    I have no sympathy for restaurant owners that complain that too many
    people would come in to use the toilet. I simply suggest that they
    move their restaurants to places where few people go. Of course, we
    know that they choose high-traffic locations because many people will
    come in and buy. “Location, location, location” is the saying. These
    owners should learn to accept the civic duty with the civic benefit.

    They won’t lose money this way, because the same rule will apply to
    their nearby competitors and the prices will adjust. Ultimately the public
    will bear the cost of making these toilets available, and we’ll get a lot
    more available toilets for much less cost because the system is so efficient.

  37. I remember an econ professor back in the ’90s talking about a plan to put pay toilets throughout, I believe it was New York City. The toilets would be self cleaning and have a time limit to avoid habitation and other unsavory activities. But, because there would not be room enough for handicapped accessible toilets, a local business would be contracted to allow wheelchairs access to their toilets free. The plan was scrapped when local disability advocates demanded that unless all toilets be accessible they would sue to stop the plan under the ADA. I haven’t been able to verify the story since then but with the growth in ADA lawsuits it is not difficult to believe.

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