Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Flushed away

Edinburgh pubs face a new threat from City Council plans to restrict their capacity if they don’t have enough female toilets. Under new building regulations, pubs will have to provide one toilet for every 30 customers, and it is assumed that 50% of customers are female, even if in practice they are overwhelmingly male. If applied retrospectively, this could make many older pubs and bars which only have a single female toilet unviable, while newer, purpose-built venues will have no problem in complying, thus driving another nail into the coffin of the traditional pub.

Now, I accept that pub toilets often leave much to be desired, but surely this is going too far and ending up cutting off your nose to spite your face. On the Continent, provision of toilets often falls far short of British levels – I have been in one bar in Belgium that must have had a capacity of over 200, yet only had a sole unisex WC. Possibly the answer is for Edinburgh pubs to designate all their cubicles as unisex, although how well that would go down with punters is questionable.

And it is more than a little hypocritical for local councils to be insisting on lavish toilet provision by private businesses when they are under no legal obligation to provide an adequate number of public toilets themselves and indeed in most areas are busy closing them down left, right and centre.


  1. I think it erroneous to assume all regulation harms the efficiency of the market, and if you don’t mind me saying you appear to be developing a tendency to interpret news having predefined it as bad for pubs. Much like the publican site which appears to view most things from the perspective “how this is bad for pubs”. Much regulation assists the market. Would take away food outlets proper without hygiene regulation that assures the customer that it is by and large safe to eat from take away food outlets? Could a consequence of this toilet regulation force pubs to improve their facilities which has the effect of making them more appealing to a broader range of people, and ends up improving the viability of some establishments? The sun is shining, Mudgie, look on the brighter side.

  2. I'm all for improved toilets especially the Ladies but this is going a bit too far. The most I have had to wait for the toilet has been 5 minutes in a packed pub, I have waited far far longer in a club for the loo!

    If this sort of regulation is being brought in then it should cover pubs, restaurants (this one would suffer, too many places only have one Ladies toilet) and clubs.

  3. It does sound like the council is taking the piss!

  4. I think I'd like to see the detail before commenting. Comparable legislation (such as that on disability access) has exemptions for premises that simply cannot comply, and I'd be surprised if there wasn't similar provision in these proposals.

  5. RedNev, the article implies that Glasgow had taken the pragmatic view you refer to, but Edinburgh had refused to say they would do the same. And, even if physically possible, creating new facilities for which in reality there is no demand may not necessarily be economically justifiable.


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