How revolutionary is Starbucks' open bathroom policy?

Establishments say 'customers only,' but it's really up to employees

Pat Loeb
June 12, 2018 - 9:00 pm
The sign on the restroom door in Parliament Coffee says it is for guests only.

Pat Loeb | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Anyone can now walk into a Starbucks and use the bathroom, but what about other coffee shops or food spots in Center City? 

The sign on the restroom door in Parliament Coffee says it is for guests only. But an employee explained that they consider anyone who walks in the door a guest, even if they're just there to charge their cellphone. 

At La Colombe, too, owner Todd Carmichael states a similar open policy: "If you've made it to our cafe, you should feel at home."

His only caveat is that you cannot break the law or health violations. But for one store manager, that complicates things.

"We've had issues in our bathroom of people just absolutely destroying it," said the manager, "so we try to maintain a good bathroom, make sure everyone that is a paying customer is able to use a clean bathroom."

"Most people will buy something to use it, but they don't have to. It's not something we say when they ask," added another store employee.

In fact, a lot of Center City establishments say "customers only," but really allow employees to decide who can use the bathroom.

That means sometimes saying no to people, although Abby Arno at Steve's Prince of Steaks said there are times — like during parades or citywide events — when even that doesn't work.

"Sometimes we lock it on days like that," she said, "and then they beat the door down and break it."