Can’t Use Bathroom

WSVN — I would guess it has happened to you. You are out shopping at a store or eating at a restaurant, and you need to use the restroom. What would you think if they said, “We don’t have a bathroom” or, “You can’t use it?” Is that legal? It’s why one man who had to go had to call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Todd Kant: “Parkinson’s, the shakes. I have type 2 diabetes.”

Todd Kant has enough medical issues to keep a team of doctors busy.

Todd Kant: “A heart attack and a mini stroke.”

And he has one ailment you may not have heard of called C.R.S.

Todd Kant: “Can’t Remember Shinola.”

Can’t remember shinola. Clearly, Todd isn’t afflicted with a sour disposition.

Todd Kant: “You’ve gotta laugh your diseases away before they put you away.”

But with irritable bowel syndrome, one thing is not a laughing matter with Todd.

Todd Kant: “I had an urge and I needed to use the facilities.”

Todd was buying some things at a discount store in Hollywood when he suddenly needed to use their bathroom.

Todd Kant: “I said, ‘I really have to go,’ and then she said something, ‘Well, sorry, the bathroom is out of order.'”

Todd said he could not wait, so he went through the double doors to the storage area where the bathroom was located.

Todd Kant: “And the bathroom was not out of order. And they came in like banshees, banging on the door.”

After using the restroom, Todd came out. The store employee was not happy.

Todd Kant: “She actually picked up the phone and was going to call the cops. I said, ‘Fine, then I’ll wait,’ and she hung up.”

Todd says, with his stomach problems he often has to find a restroom quickly, and whether it’s a grocery store, a restaurant, a gas station, all have bathrooms easy to find and accessible. Just not this store.

Todd Kant: “Through the grace of everything good, I found it and everything worked out all right, but it was way back there.”

After we interviewed Todd, we went over to the discount store. Their restroom is in their storage area and can be accessed through double doors marked “employees only,” or another set of double doors with no markings.

We couldn’t find any signs that say “restroom.” We asked to use the bathroom. A clerk told us it was not available, that they were working in the storage area.

Todd says, if it’s legal to block customers from using a bathroom, it’s wrong.

Patrick Fraser: “So you don’t think you were asking for too much?”

Todd Kant: “No, no, simple. ‘Can I borrow the bathroom?’ I mean, I’m not going to steal the bathroom.”

Well, Howard, does a business in Florida have to have a bathroom for customers?

Howard Finkelstein: “Yes, they do. State laws requires that a business must have a bathroom that their customers can use. They must also have a sign to show you where it is, and if it was built or remodeled after 2008, the bathroom cannot be in a storage room where a person could trip or fall getting to the bathroom.”

We then contacted Family Dollar’s corporate headquarters. In an e-mail they told us, “Yes, the bathrooms in our stores are for public use, and we have reminded our team members of this policy to ensure there’s no confusion in the future. Additionally, our district manager reached out to the customer and apologized for his experience.”

We went by the next day, and the bathroom was open to the public. Since it was built before the newest code went into effect, it can remain in the storage room, but a Hollywood code enforcement officer asked the store manager to install a sign showing where the bathroom is, and he says Family Dollar has agreed to do that.

Howard says, if a business won’t let you use their bathroom, call city or county code enforcement office.

Howard Finkelstein: “This law has been around for a while, but many businesses don’t have signs, or they have the bathrooms in a storage area. However, many cities and counties don’t know that it’s a law, or don’t consider it a high priority and don’t enforce the law.”

Todd’s glad things got cleared up, and he told me something I hadn’t thought of: that you can find out a lot about a business from their bathroom.

Todd Kant: “If they keep their bathrooms spiffed up, it means they are very good at organization, that they care about their customers. If their bathrooms are sloppy, that also speaks about their employees and their corporate.”

Now, while each business is required to have a restroom, there are exceptions. For example, at a mall, each store there doesn’t have to have one. The bathrooms just have to be within 500 feet of the store.

Your hopes of solving a problem swirling down the drain? Ready to flush it from your mind? Contact us. We aren’t hard to find. The sign is right there.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

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