The river of pedestrians on Queen is flowing full force. Some trickle into shops for the 50 per cent off sales, others gush at whatever teen celebrity is dropping by MuchMusic. (The Jonas Brothers are popular, it seems).
Not even stoplights can control the ebb and flow of traffic at some intersections. Many walk armed with a grande concoction, Big Gulp or bubble tea.
They’ll have to pee somewhere. We all have to pee somewhere. And if you’re like me, the timing is going to be inconvenient.
The situation also peeved Councillor Howard Moscoe who ventured into a few Shoppers Drug Marts and got sick of being told to take his bathroom business elsewhere.
“I travelled around to three Shoppers and asked to use their washrooms, and every one of them said they don’t provide washrooms to the public,” explains Moscoe.
Having also received complaints from constituents about a Zellers in Lawrence Square Mall, he decided it was time to ask the Planning and Growth Management Committee to get retail stores to provide public restrooms.
It turns out that, instead of creating a new bylaw, all that’s needed is enforcement of what’s already there.
“The Ontario Building Code does require [stores to] provide washrooms for customers in mercantile premises,” says Moscoe. The problem, he says, is that store owners and managers don’t know this.
The code calls for one washroom in a store up to 3,230 square feet. Over that, up to 6,000 square feet, you’re talking one washroom per sex. In terms of building occupancy assessments, 300 men or 150 women equals one washroom. I guess because men pee faster?
Moscoe wants to focus on the mega-?marts so as not to put an additional burden on mom-and-pop shops.
I figure it’s worth testing his access theory on a shop-?peeing tour of some popular chains, with one adjustment: Moscoe says shops have a right to a “customers only” washroom policy, but I don’t want to buy anything.
When the 20 Astral Media street johns are finally in place next summer, it will cost me $1 for a maximum of 20 minutes in the cubicle of my choice, but frankly, I’d rather buy some gum if I’m forced to pay up.
First stop on my take-?a-?leak Queen tour is the McDonald’s at Church.
I’m being clear that I’ve just wandered in from the street and am not going to order anything. I cue my puppy-dog frowning face. It works! I’m buzzed into the dubious lavatory.Things go downhill from there.
The Pizza Pizza at McCaul rejects my relief request. And when I ask, the clerk says the cheapest thing they sell is a pop. (I don’t argue, but it’s actually the dipping sauce.)
Next up is the John Street coffee corner. While most Starbucks are key-?free-?access havens, this location locks its loo. Worse, eight people are waiting ahead of me. Kitty-corner competitor Second Cup also keeps a key, and wins for most elitist key fob message: “Key is attached to the silver spoon.”
I switch to clothing stores, beginning with the Queen West Gap. Trading on the despair facade that worked so well at McDonald’s, I decide to do a little browsing, then ask an associate for a “favour.” Chalk up another success. Without hesitation the sales associate escorts me through the change room to the public washroom.
Hoping to build momentum, I try the same thing at Club Monaco and the newly erected two-?floor H&M at Spadina. Both turn me down and direct me to the Lettieri café a few doors west. Apparently, Lettieri is getting a lot of referrals, because a big sheet of lined paper hangs on the washroom door warning that the water closets are for patrons only.
I opt to try the McDonald’s across the street instead. It requires a buzz in, but staff do it automatically. Worth noting is that a sign on the washroom says it’s closed after 8 pm. Late-night nature calls, you’re shit out of luck.
Having just opened in recent weeks, the two-?floor Urban Outfitters seems like a good place for a nice, clean washroom – except they don’t have one. They suggest trying hip brother-in-arms American Apparel.
The good news is that I can pee there; the bad news is it’s because my friend is working. She suggests asking another salesperson to get a more typical answer.
Tip: make friends on your most favoured travel routes.With the exception of the Shoppers Drug Mart near Bathurst, washrooms get easier to find as you move away from the shopping core. Starbucks doors are unlocked, and the 7-?Eleven doesn’t even say “Customers only.”
In fact, 7-?Eleven spokesperson Len McGeouch says the chain’s policy is to let people use the restrooms unless they’re tucked in the back past a storeroom.
Keep that in mind when you need to go around Trinity Bellwoods. The location on Queen will let you pee, but the Dundas and Manning one won’t.
Of course, if Moscoe has his way, a few months from now the bladders of Toronto will rejoice.
“In October we’ll hear the public and amend the Property Standards bylaw, then send out inspectors,” he asserts. “We’ll probably give stores six months to comply, then bust the ones that don’t.”