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Are Restaurants Required to Have Bathrooms?

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Lauren Beck

Have you ever found yourself dining out and in urgent need of the bathroom, only to realize that the restaurant does not have one?

Surprisingly, most restaurants in the US aren’t legally obligated to have bathrooms.

While some voluntarily offer them for customer convenience, local codes or health regulations may mandate them in certain cases.

Bathroom Requirements for Opening a Restaurant

Bathroom requirements are usually only relevant when a restaurant is first opening.

Most localities have building codes that dictate how many bathrooms are required for a certain number of customers or employees.

For example, the city of Seattle requires that new restaurants have at least one toilet for every 40 customers and at least one urinal for every 20 male customers.

If a proposed restaurant doesn’t have enough bathrooms to meet these requirements, the city will not issue a permit for the eatery to open.

How Many Water Closets?

The number of water closets, or toilets, required for a new restaurant may seem like a small detail, but it’s actually an important public health consideration.

If a restaurant doesn’t have enough toilets, customers may have to wait in line to use the bathroom.

This can lead to unsanitary conditions, as people are more likely to relieve themselves in other places, like the alley behind the restaurant.

In addition, a lack of toilets can create safety hazards. Long lines for the bathroom can cause people to become agitated and even violent. This is especially true if alcohol is being served at the restaurant.

Accessories in Restrooms

In addition to the required number of toilets, most jurisdictions also have regulations about the accessories that must be present in a restaurant bathroom.

For example, all restrooms must have soap and water or an alternative hand-washing system. Paper towels or an air dryer must also be available for customers to use to dry their hands.

Toilets must have seats and must be flushed with water. urinals must also have privacy partitions to ensure that customers can use them without being on full display.

ADA Regulations for Restaurant Bathrooms

public toilet and Bathroom interior

Restaurants are also required to make their bathrooms accessible to people with disabilities, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) [1].

This means that at least one bathroom in the restaurant must be large enough to accommodate a wheelchair.

The bathroom must also have grab bars and other features that make it easier for people with limited mobility to use.

Where Restrooms can be Located?

While there are no laws dictating where a restaurant must place its bathrooms, most eateries choose to put them near the back of the building.

This makes it more convenient for customers to use the restroom without having to walk through the entire restaurant.

It also helps reduce traffic in the kitchen and dining areas and minimizes the chance that customers will see someone using the restroom.

Some restaurants, particularly fast food chains, may put their bathrooms near the front of the building to deter people from loitering.

However, this can create safety hazards as people wait in line for the bathroom and block the flow of foot traffic.

What Is the Law Regarding Bathroom Availability for Customers?

There is no federal law mandating that restaurants must provide bathrooms for their customers. However, many states have their own laws and regulations regarding restaurant bathrooms.

For example, the state of California requires all restaurants to have at least one toilet available for customer use.

This toilet must be in a location that is easily accessible to customers and must be well-lit and ventilated.

The state of Illinois also has similar laws, requiring that all restaurants have at least one customer bathroom that is easily accessible and well-maintained.

How Do I File a Complaint if a Business Is Not Making Its Restrooms Available?

If you believe a business is not making its restrooms available to customers, you can file a complaint with your local health department.

You will need to provide the name and address of the business and any other relevant information, such as when you attempted to use the restroom and were denied access.

The health department will then investigate the complaint and take appropriate action, which may include ordering the business to make its restroom available to customers.

What if I Have a Medical Condition and Must Go to the Bathroom Immediately?

If you have a medical condition that requires you to use the restroom immediately, most businesses will allow you to use their employee bathroom.

However, you should always ask permission before using an employee restroom, as some businesses may not allow it.

In addition, some states have laws protecting the rights of people with medical conditions to access public restrooms.

How Do I Find Out Bathroom Regulations for My Area?

To find out the bathroom regulations for your area, contact your local health department or the agency that regulates restaurants in your state.

You can also check online for any laws and regulations that apply to restaurant bathrooms in your area.

Do I Need a Toilet in My Restaurant?

Yes, having a toilet in your restaurant is essential for legal compliance and customer satisfaction. It provides necessary sanitation facilities and enhances the overall dining experience.


In my experience, it’s evident that federal laws don’t impose a blanket requirement for restaurant bathrooms. Each state takes the reins in setting its own rules and regulations in this matter.

Consequently, the existence of restroom obligations may differ depending on where you dine. While some states may enforce specific mandates for restaurants to offer bathrooms to patrons, others might not be as stringent.

To stay well-informed and compliant, restaurant owners and customers alike should familiarize themselves with their respective state’s laws concerning this fundamental aspect of the dining experience.


Lauren Beck
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