In Saskatchewan, restaurants are required to have public washrooms. And it’s not enough to simply have any available washroom. The province’s Public Eating Establishment Standards spell out specific criteria for the washrooms of most eating establishments. While the standards themselves are not—strictly speaking—considered laws, they become legally binding on restaurants when they are included as a condition of the restaurant’s licence to operate. A particular restaurant can ask to have the requirements modified in some circumstances.
Restaurants can’t just put a washroom anywhere they please. Certain location requirements are spelled out in the Public Eating Establishment Standards. Washrooms must be conveniently located and the public must be able to get to them without having to pass through an area where food is stored, prepared, or served. The path to the washroom must be of appropriate width and clear of obstructions.
Restaurant washrooms are not just required to be in certain locations. They must be built to certain standards. Sinks with hot and cold water must be provided. Floors and walls around toilets and urinals must be finished in an impervious material that can be cleaned easily. There must be an adequate number of easily-cleaned waste containers. Paper towels, roller-type towels, or hot air dryers are required. And dispenser soap is mandatory.
The number of washrooms is largely dependent upon the seating capacity of the restaurant. There must be at least one washroom for each sex when the seating capacity is 50 or less. For every 50 more people in seating capacity, one additional washroom fixture must be added for males and two additional washroom fixtures for females.
Just because the washrooms are there doesn’t mean that they’re always in that great of shape. Luckily, public standards require washrooms to be “clean and in good repair” and that they be cleaned at least once a day.
Generally speaking unless the restaurant was built before accessibility standards came into effect and has not since been renovated restaurants must ensure that their washrooms are barrier-free to accommodate people with physical disabilities. The washroom must be designed with a clear path of travel and with an appropriate width. At least one stall must be at least 1.5 metres long and 1.5 metres wide. Grab bars and coat hooks must be present and at specific heights and positions so that they can be reached from a seated position. Sinks, toilets, and door handles must have lever-type hardware. If mirrors are provided there must be at least one lower or downward-slanted mirror so that a person in a wheelchair can use it. And sinks must have clearance below so hands can be washed while sitting in a wheelchair. The requirements are meant to ensure people with physical disabilities will have equitable access to washrooms.
It may seem silly that all these standards need to be in place. But what happens when government absents itself from regulating restaurant washrooms? Consider one example. In Honolulu, Hawaii, many fast-food restaurants and coffee shops have no public washrooms at all! This means after you finish that large coffee or super-sized soda, you’re on your own.
What public health concerns come about when a restaurant has no washroom at all?