Foodservice Equipment Reports

…And Yes To Fewer Restrooms

Another fluid issue for New York foodservice operators is restrooms. Under recent changes to a city code, small restaurants and coffee shops with an occupancy of 30 or fewer people are now allowed to provide patrons with a single restroom rather than two (one for each gender), as previously required. The changes also brought the city’s plumbing code in line with a health-department code that allowed restaurants with fewer than 20 seats to not provide patrons with any restroom.

The restroom requirements for New York operators depends on many factors: how many seats a restaurant has or people it can hold, when the building was built, when the restaurant opened, what its certificate of occupancy says and whether it underwent renovations and, if so, how extensive.

The city has three building codes—1938, ’68 and ’08—and all have different restroom requirements. A building is subject to the law it was built under, and if a restaurant moves into an old restaurant space and does not change its bathroom fixtures, the old requirements apply.

The new laws are not retroactive: they apply only to new construction and if a site changes its use or occupancy load. Adding to the complexity, waivers often have been granted to smaller restaurants allowing them to have just one unisex bathroom when they otherwise might have needed two.