By Austin Regan
Mayor de Blasio recently signed a new Local Law that dictates that all single user toilet rooms must be labeled as Uni-Sex toilets. Obviously this law was in part a response to the recent gender identity issues that have become a point of conflict in some parts of the country. The Law also has the unintended effect of aiding small restaurant operators in certain cases.
The rental cost of prime retail space in this City has always been high. Many budding entrepreneurs only have enough start up money to rent and renovate spaces that are very small. This is quite common with restaurants. In these tiny spaces the owner must utilize every possible inch to maximize the area that will serve their paying customers.
By law, even the smallest of restaurants must provide toilet facilities. Per PC 403.2 once the total occupant load of staff and customers reaches 30 people, separate facilities for men and women must be provided. Table PC 403.1 states that only one Lavatory and toilet is required for up to 75 people. Since separate facilities are needed past thirty people, the two toilet rooms required can accommodate a total occupant load of 150 people.
Getting back to the case of the small restaurant with 40 or 50 people finding the space for two toilet rooms becomes difficult. Add the fact that you cannot discriminate between male and female users, and that both toilet rooms would need to be handicap accessible. That is a lot of real estate taken up by an area that does not generate revenue.
At least that was the case before this new law was passed. Now, because of the new unisex labeling rule the architect designing such a space can take advantage to the following exception in Chapter 11 of the 2014 code (which all renovations are required to follow). Exception 3 of BC1109.2 states:
“ Where multiple single-user toilet rooms or bathing rooms are clustered to be within sight of, or adjacent to one another at a single location, at least 50 percent, but not less than one room for each use at each cluster, shall be accessible.”
It is doubtful that the law was passed contemplating that compliance with handicap accessibility requirements would be simplified but every once and awhile unintended consequences turn out to create pleasant surprises.