Friday, 18 May 2018

At the sign of the crossed legs

Our recent visit to the Olde England in Northampton reminded me of the vexed question of the inadequate provision of toilets in micropubs. If you’re running what is basically a bottle shop that allows customers to sample the odd drop on the premises, then having a single unisex WC may be sufficient. However, the after-effects of drinking beer are well-known and predictable, and if your establishment is one where substantial numbers of people are likely to linger and consume a series of drinks, it just isn’t good enough. The Olde England has a spacious first-floor room that could easily accommodate fifty people.

While, averaged out over time, it may in theory meet the need, in practice there will inevitably be times when a queue builds up, especially at closing time. Many years ago at school, I studied Queuing Theory in maths. I don’t recall much about it, but one thing I do remember is that reducing the number of nodes may not impact too much on the average wait, but it can have a much more significant effect on the maximum.

Plus, without going into too much detail, not every visit to the loo is over and done with in a couple of minutes. Sometimes it can take ten minutes or more. If that happens, it may place those left outside waiting in an excruciatingly embarrassing position. When you gotta go, you gotta go, and you can’t hold it in indefinitely.

It can’t be denied that the rise of micropubs has injected an element of freshness and enterprise into the pub scene, and I certainly wouldn’t want to see minimum toilet provision for pubs and bars laid down in law. But, at a personal level, I really wouldn’t choose to spend much time at all in any establishment with just a single WC. Even the smallest traditional pubs, such as the Circus Tavern in Manchester City Centre, manage to have separate gents and ladies facilities, and to offer a choice of urinals or trap in the gents.


  1. Well yeh. You and others have suggested I take the mick by going into pubs just to use the bogs but what this gives you is an insight that no amount of beardy book recommendations can ever give you. When you develop pub bog knowledge you are informed on standards, attitudes and whether it is the type of gaff to pop into for a pint or whether it's just for having a crap in when you're not near enough to your destination. Develop pub bog knowledge, I say.

    1. There should be a guide to user friendly W/Cs. Be a nice smart phone app.

  2. Surely part of the problem is Martin and Simon constantly snapping photographs of them?

  3. Give it time. Not only will they lay down in law, the minimum number of toilets, but you'll need separate ones for about twenty different genders

  4. There are guidelines for the provision of toilet facilities - see below. However, it's up to each local council EHO to enforce/interpret them, so in some areas you can get away with 1 unisex cubicle, others not. We were forced to go for a 'compromise' of 4 cubicles, one of which had to be accessible - so although it was a pain at the time (cost & delays), it means there is very rarely a queue even when the pub is full and one is out of order.

    Information taken from BS 6465-1:2006
    Pubs, bars and nightclubs
    Minimum provision of sanitary appliances for licensed pubs, bars, nightclubs, and discotheques.
    Assuming a 50:50 ratio of male to female customers.

    Male WC

    2 for up to 150 males; plus
    1 for every additional 200
    males or part thereof 2 for
    up to 40 males if urinals are
    not provided


    1 for every 50 males up to
    200 males; plus 1 for every
    additional 70 males or part

    Washbasin 1 per WC, plus 1 per 5
    urinals or part thereof

    Female WC

    2 for up to 25 females; plus 1 for
    every additional 25 females or
    part thereof up to 200 females;
    plus 1 for every additional 35
    females or part thereof

    1, plus 1 per 2 WCs or part

  5. You are not meant to drink four pints these days. The eye-watering price of a "craft beer" and the nanny-state health advice is intended as a nudge towards spending the same and consuming far less. Consequently the toilet facilities need only match those of a Parisian cafe-bar.

  6. If you reduce the number of servers (in this case, urinals/cubicles) in a queueing system (pub toilets), it will have an impact on the average waiting time. If the queue is generally fairly long, the average waiting time is roughly inversely proportional to the number of servers. What you say about the maximum is correct. If twice as many customers arrive at twice as many cubicles, the average waiting time won't be much different. However the variance (variability) will be - and so less chance of a very long wait. Maybe this is what you were remembering? The reason is that the occasional unfortunate with digestive problems is only blocking a proportion of the facilities - not the whole facility, as in the single cubicle model.

  7. Ah. WhatPub will just have to start specifying the toilet capacity in Erlangs, it would appear.

  8. I've discussed this issue at my local single-facility micropub at some length. The argument goes something like this:

    If he installed a second toilet it would take up a significant amount of what would otherwise be drinking floorspace - the equivalent of 1-1.5 of the five indoor tables, and if the place was smaller, there would be fewer drinkers and therefore no need for the additional facility. So it's a kind of urinal paradox.

    Additionally, I think if you only have the one unisex toilet you are largely exempt from prescriptive legislation, but if you have multiple/separate facilities you are then required to meet various accessibility criteria, so it's not as simple as just 'adding another one' even if it made sense with regards to the overall use of space.

  9. Being male though, a nearby tree will do the job.

    1. The other Mudgie !19 May 2018 at 20:32

      Well that's what a member of our CAMRA Branch Committee thought while on a coach trip to Nantwich some forty years ago but an officer of the Cheshire Constabulary didn't take kindly to Graham "urinating in a public place".

    2. Prefer peeing against a wall myself. Much cleaner than a yukky pub toilet.

    3. Of course, it can all be done discreetly.

  10. I suppose the problem come from the toilets being designed for the couple of staff that would have worked in the former shop that many of the micros were converted from and as Ben Viveur pointed out, building more wouldn't fit and would end up costing a fortune even if it could.

  11. Cambridge beer Festival starts today. I have several beers on at the fest, notably Doctor's Orders trad lager, Principia an Imperial Stout and Sawtry Sasquatch vanilla stout. Paul and I will be there at Tuesday lunchtime. So if anyone is interested in a chat we will be near the Angles Ales sampling area. Hope to see a few real ale drinkers there.

    1. Just seen this Dr Evil, sorry I missed you. Was gone after Brass Castle/Cairngorm/Great Heck/Cloudwater DIPA. Actually saved me wee for the proper Gents in a proper pub over at the Maypole.Hope you had fun...

    2. There on Friday lunchtime too. Probably from around 13.30.

  12. What is needed in the long term is shared facilities for small retail units. So let's say you have a row of shopfronts with two coffee shops, a restaurant, a bakery and a micropub. And probably a bookies. These should be built with common access to a shared set of amply capacious facilities built directly behind the shopfront units.

    Doing future infrastructure this way would probably save money, space, energy etc.


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