All public establishments in New York must provide free restroom facilities for the health and safety of staff and customers. The exact number of restrooms and fixtures requires depends on the occupancy and type of establishment, as enumerated by the relevant plumbing codes. New York has adapted statewide plumbing standards based on the International Plumbing Code, provided by the International Code Council and used in many states.
Number of Facilities
The number of restrooms required in a restaurant depends upon the expected occupancy, as determined by New York state building codes. For restaurants with an expected load of 50 people or fewer, a single unisex restroom with lavatory fixtures is acceptable. As the number of customers increases, so does the quantity of required restrooms. Restaurants must provide one single-sex restroom for every 75 customers of that sex. If a restaurant has more than 15 employees, or the employee area is over 300 feet from the restroom, there must be separate employee facilities.
Water Closet Fixtures
All fixtures in required restrooms must be installed in accordance with section 405 of the New York State Plumbing Code. Toilets, urinals, and other fixtures may not be crowded too tightly, with at least 30 inches of space in all directions. Multiple toilets must be separated by privacy compartments, or stalls. No toilet or urinal can be located in the direct line of sight of an unlockable door, for privacy reasons.
Every restroom facility that has water closets must contain a lavatory, or hand-washing station, in the same room. In a restaurant, customer lavatories must have individual sinks separated by at least 20 inches. A public establishment needs to provide one lavatory per 200 occupants, or at least one lavatory per restroom. Since restrooms may contain multiple toilets, it is possible that a restaurant will contain fewer lavatories than water closets.
Locations and Prohibitions
Other details of plumbing code restrict the locations and types of fixtures acceptable in public restrooms. A customer restroom can be up to one floor away from the main customer area. Employee restrooms must be within 300 feet of the main employee work area. Unventilated water closets and non-flushable toilets are prohibited by plumbing code. Trough urinals are disallowed, in favor of individual, flushable urinals. Pay restroom facilities may be offered in addition to the required public facilities, which must be free.
Mary MacIntosh has been writing professionally since 2007, contributing articles to "The California Tech" and serving as an editor for the "Biweekly Frink Digest." She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in computational neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology.