Free flow: Where to go when you need to go
April 23, 2018
On April 12, two black men walked into a Philadelphia Starbucks and asked to use the bathroom. They were told they needed to buy something first. Eventually the manager called the police and they were arrested. The incident has brought up a broader question: should people be allowed to use the bathroom for free in restaurants and other businesses open to the public?
DePaul sophomores Timone Lyander and Liam Baker have both had problems with finding a place to use the bathroom throughout the city.
“We were all trying to find a place to use the bathroom and we couldn’t, so we had to go to Subway where we had to buy something,” Lyander said. “We had to buy a cookie where they gave us a receipt with the code (for the bathroom).”
“I feel like it is basic, like water is free at a restaurant, why shouldn’t the bathroom be?” Baker asked.
Lyander and Baker believe that restaurants should allow people to use their bathrooms and businesses as it’s illegal to use the bathroom in the street.
“It is illegal to use the bathroom outside, and if you are going to open your doors to customers in general, it would be a good business practice (to let people use your bathroom),” Lyander said.
Open Books, a bookstore in the West Loop allows free access to their bathroom without requiring a purchase.
“It is part of our goal to be a community space,” said Dominic Loise, the bookstore manager. “We never really thought about locking it, we mostly were worried about making it gender neutral.”
There are bathrooms in the city that don’t require you to buy a $3 cookie to use them. And you won’t have to ask permission. For some of these places, you might have to look like you are patronizing their establishment, but others are pretty wide open.
River North/Near North
Many of the nicest bathrooms on this list are in the shopping malls in River North and the Near North Side. If you are in the area, you will find a nice bathroom not too far away.
900 North Michigan Shops (commonly known as the Bloomingdales building)
900 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
The bathrooms at Bloomingdales are probably the nicest on this list. They are tastefully styled, with stall doors that nearly reach to the floor. The door handles and frosted glass are a nice touch. They gray walls and tile go well with the wood stalls. There are good hand dryers and an especially beautiful sink. (Pictured to the left)
The Shops at Northridge (commonly called the Nordstrom building)
55 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
The bathrooms at Nordstrom are not the prettiest on this list, but they are very clean. The stalls and dividers are generic stainless steel. They have decorated in nice tones of brown and gray. But they do have two options for drying your hands, towels and a hand drier, which makes these bathrooms stand out. They are pretty far from the entrance and you have to go up to the second floor to reach them.
222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago, IL 60654
The bathrooms at the Merchandise Mart are pretty clean. The white tile is nice. They also have the advantage of being connected to the L stop at Merchandise Mart, which means that if you get on the Brown or Purple line heading to Lincoln Park and realize you won’t make it home, this is a great place to stop. For the patrons of the men’s room, they have very eco-friendly high efficiency spud urinals from American Standard. The restrooms are very close to the entrance to the L stop, which is very convenient.
The department stores and malls in the Loop mean that there are many places to find a bathroom. A big boon to the bathroom seeker is the department store or shopping mall. Department stores and shopping malls always have bathrooms.
Macy’s: 111 N State St, Chicago, IL 60602
The bathrooms in Macy’s are big, but not always the cleanest. They also have quite a bit of foot traffic through them. Many of the stalls have graffiti scratched into the walls. Also, finding them in the store can be kind of hard. It is better to go across the street in Block 37.
Van Buren Street Metra Station: 132 E Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60604
The bathrooms at Van Buren Street Station are not nice. They could be worse, but they are not very clean. It looks like the stalls and dividers were in some kind of small fight from the dents. These bathrooms also requires a long walk from the entrance, from Michigan Ave through a tunnel under the street, to the station, then all the way to your left when you reach the seating. Not recommended, but better than nothing. (Pictured to the Right).
Target: 1 S State St, Chicago, IL 60603
Target’s bathrooms are not the cleanest. They also have a lot of foot traffic, meaning you might find yourself waiting for an open toilet. The benefits are how close to the door they are, and that they are on the first floor. They are also very close to campus.
Finding easily accessible bathrooms in the West Loop is more difficult because many of the businesses there are restaurants. There are no shopping malls like in River North and not much retail like in the Loop. The options are largely limited to train stations, hotels and a few retail stores.
Union Station: 225 South Canal Street, Chicago, IL 60606
The bathrooms in Union Station are nice and large. Though they are plainly furnished they are clean. They get a lot of foot traffic from Amtrak and Metra riders, as well as visitors to the food court. The restrooms are easy to find if you go through the Adams Street Metra station entrance, but Union Station is a maze, so going through other entrances might make finding them more difficult. Definitely the nicest train station bathrooms on this list.
SoHo House Hotel: 113 N Green St, Chicago, IL 60607
SoHo House has incredibly nice bathrooms. The stall walls are very fashionable, with nice wood and white walls. The wood counter that the sinks is in looks great. But there is a major problem. To get to the bathroom, you have to walk all the way to the end of the building from the door. Then you have to go up a flight of stairs. Then you have to walk past a bar and tell the person seating tables at a restaurant that you are using the bathroom. These bathrooms have the greatest barriers to entry of any on this list. But you are only going to get one question, no follow up. (Pictured to the left).