Many Restaurants Ignore Rules For Public Restrooms

CHICAGO (CBS) — There are thousands of restaurants in Chicago and many of them are operating outside the law by not offering proper public restroom facilities.

Critics said that’s because city officials have chosen not to enforce state and municipal laws and ordinances governing the placement of restrooms in restaurants.

Critics claim those codes have essentially been on the books in name only.

So CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli set out on Wednesday to check several downtown restaurants.

At Jimmy John’s on West Washington in the Loop the smells may be free.. but the bathrooms sure aren’t.

George Flores, who uses a wheelchair, found that out the hard way.

“I went in there, ordered a Coke and asked to use the bathroom. When I asked to use the bathroom, the person at the counter told me ‘We don’t have a bathroom,’” Flores said.

Then Flores was pointed to a nearby restaurant down the street.

“They told me that I had to go to a facility down the corner, outside, down the block,” Flores said.

But, according to state and local codes, that Jimmy John’s is required by law to have public restrooms.

Attorney Dave Hundley said the state’s plumbing code requires all restaurants with a combination of more than ten employees and seats to have men’s and women’s washrooms.

Extremely small restaurants are not required to have public men’s and women’s restrooms, but they are required to allow patrons to use the employee restrooms.

But Hundley said the rules have been shamefully ignored for years.

“There’s a good reason for it. It makes sense to allow for washrooms in a place that’s serving food and beverages,” he said. “So, either it is there to be enforced for the benefit of the public, or somebody should say we don’t need this law anymore.”

The Jimmy John’s on Washington Street certainly is not alone.

In an unscientific survey of restaurants in the Loop, South Loop, West Loop and River North areas, Hundley’s team found scores of restaurants blatantly ignoring the law.

“We looked at 74 locations and only six of those were in compliance with the law, as far as we could tell,” Hundley said.

More than 40 of those restaurants had no publicly accessible washrooms at all.

CBS 2 stopped by five of those restaurants on Wednesday and were repeatedly told that public restrooms were not available. That’s frustrating to customers like Bryant Sanders.

“I think the city, for one, should do something about it to make the restaurants comply,” Sanders said.

Flores agreed and, not just for handicapped people like himself, but for everyone.

Otherwise, he said the codes might as well be flushed down the toilet.

“It’s not a joke. We have to use the bathroom and it’s something that causes a lot suffering and a lot of stress for someone like myself,” he said.

Representatives of the city’s Buildings Department did not immediately return phone and email messages for comment.

More from Mike Puccinelli
  • Jim Hamilton

    Rahm is more worried about getting those cameras to work so he can catch you speeding home from the restaurants to use the bathroom

  • franklin808

    What’s wrong with the alleys?

  • Jim Hamilton

    Well you untill Illinois gets a right to carry law I’m not going into any alley in Chicago besides I use a wheelchair to Its not as easy as it used to be.

  • Jim Hamilton

    Chicago is turning into one huge cesspool of criminals put a fence around it and take away their right to vote.
    By the way.
    Hi there Chicago it’s me from down state illinois. Hows the anti gun laws working out for ya. When will you idiots up there wake up and see your anti carry laws only dis arm the law abiding guys and keep the bad guys with their guns safer?
    Like hell take my family to Chicago for family fun. Getting them all killed in a drive up like so many others I read about doesn’t sound like fun to me oh yeah and in Chicago the criminals carry guns but I can’t hahaha NO THANK YOU CHICAGO!

  • Bob Hamilton

    Every little restaurant must have clean washrooms for the public, but the CTA which has 1.5 million passengers per day, has NONE! Which is why you may notice the funny smells on the CTA trains and buses after you sit down. If every rider of the CTA would start insisting on this most basic service, we would have it. They are about to spend more than $1,000,000,000 dollars to upgrade the Red Line. How many bathrooms will be built? Zero as of now, unless YOU say something.

  • Matthew Guski

    Here come the Bathroom Police…
    Why does everyone feel that the City of Chicago should somehow be responsible for this??? The City already expends tens of millions of dollars a year verifying building designs and construction complies with safety and other codes. And they do a very good job.

    We do not need to spend more City money on the Bathroom Police!!!

    Invariably some non-life-safety code requirements must be compromised in order to allow new tenants to use spaces in buildings that are 50 to 100 years old and built long before any of these code requirements existed.

    Also, there is a code exception that allows such tenant spaces to not have bathrooms if the building has facilities within 200 feet one level above or below. It is very likely that these tenant claimed this exemption during the City inspection process.

    • Jim Hamilton

      Obviously Mathew didn’t even read the article.

      Rahm is more worried about getting those cameras to work so he can catch you hurrying home from the restaurants to use the bathroom than to clean up the cesspool. Why aren’t those cameras watching the neighborhood instead of working people running behind to get to works license plates. Running behind because of the big potholes in the road lord knows they have created more danger than going 5 mile an hour over has.

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