Great Question from Greater Greater Washington

Poets, originally uploaded by Nestum23.

Are there enough public restrooms in DC? GGW’s Lynda Laughlin (a friend of mine) wrote a great post titled When you gotta go, where do you go? A brilliant question. She writes:

“We’ve all been there. You’re out and about, and then suddenly, you need a restroom. When I leave home to go on a walk or run an errand, I keep a mental map of the closest available restrooms. I usually rely on restrooms in commercial businesses, largely because it is difficult to find public restrooms in the District.”

Since I start my walks in Petworth I’ve always used busboys and poets (pictured above by Nestum 23) as my safe haven. I don’t know if that actually counts as a public restroom but I’ve never had a problem taking a quick pit stop there. So what do you think – are there enough public restrooms? Do you have any go to spots around town? It reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where Costanza can name the best public restroom on any block in Manhattan.

On a side note Laughlin also writes:

“The redeveloped public park at 14th and Girard, NW will include two freestanding restrooms.”

Do you think public restrooms in parks are a good idea or will they attract a “bad” element?

29 Comment

  • I’ve always used commercial businesses. I’ve used Target when I wasn’t sure I could make it home from the metro. Downtown, Barnes & Noble. And Starbucks, of course.

  • DC used to have public rest rooms in most of the major parks until the 1950s. But during the Mccarthy hearings, the case was made that these were meeting places for communists, fellow travelers, State Department homosexuals, and other “deviants” and the restrooms were shut down. As if we needed another thing to hate Joe Mccarthy for. But you can’t really blame commercial businesses for limiting access to their restrooms. Would YOU like to clean up after these people? Some people just clearly have NO IDEA how to use a toilet. Either that, or they really need to work on their aim. How the f**k did they get that stuff on the CEILING?

    Worst bathroom: MLK Library. The ones with the half-doors. I’m convinced some people live in there.

    Best bathroom: National Building Museum. Bright, clean, with that nice pebbled glass on the doors. Really makes defecating a pleasure.

  • Just ask George Costanza.

  • great question. I used to live in Philly and dated a girl with a pretty small apartment. She was also so much classier than I was. I never got the courage to number 2 in her place. Would always go across the street to Barnes and Noble to take care of business. good times!

  • The first bathroom that popped into my head after reading this is probably the worst bathroom! Granted I totally understand the reasoning behind it, but the McDonalds in Adams Morgan, that one on the corner that is a perfect pit stop between the bars and the metro, right you all know which one, with the pay to get in doors…oh god why, but I don’t have a quarter and I have to go reeeeaaaal bad!!!!

    Haha, I actually haven’t been to Adam’s Morgan in years, but I always hated that one. (also cause you smell the food and then you HAVE to get something to eat which means you have to add getting fat late night to your list of regrets in the am)

  • public bathrooms in parks are breeding grounds for seedy dealings. you name it, it’s guarenteed to go down in those places. for example, the ones in meridian hill park (i think they may be closed now?) were disgusting. i personally saw prostitution and drug use going on in the entrance ways and the smell was so foul, i can’t even describe it.

  • Are there any such things as “public restrooms” besides those on the Mall (which I always carry a shiv with me when I poop)? Otherwise, a Starbucks, Smithsonian museum, alley or bookstore usually covers it.

  • I usually dip into a Starbucks. They’re everywhere, and the employees don’t care if you use the restroom without buying anything.

  • Hotels are also always a good choice. They almost always have public restrooms in the lobby and they’re usually very well-kept and clean.

  • I don’t think a public restroom is really going to change much in terms of seedy happenings. These things happen either way. See park on 11th and Monroe. No bathroom, lots of seedy happenings, and almost always smells like piss.

    The only thing I’m curious about is who is actually going to clean these bathrooms.

  • If I need to go while I’m Downtown, I’ll often stop in a nice hotel. They usually have decent restrooms somewhere close to the lobby.

  • If its in DC’s hands, those things will never get cleaned. I can’t even think how disgusting they would be. I second Starbucks or hotel lobby bathrooms.

  • Haynes/Haines (not sure which) Point Park has some public restrooms. I had to use one once, I don’t remember it being that bad actually. Although, I believe the men’s bathroom did not have any doors-so my roommate’s said.

  • Hotels are nice, but not everywhere and take a long time to get in and out of. I use Bus Boys & Poets a lot or Starbucks (the one thing I like about Starbucks).

  • Since DC is considered a “park” , we should have public restrooms all around the park/city for tourists, drunks, residents, homeless, ho’s, etc to “use”. I cringe everytime I am on 13th and Logan Circle and am in desperate need of a restroom.

  • DC is not too bad on this front. In the US, Boston is hands down the worst experience I’ve encountered. On the Commons, there’s like one public restroom which is old and disgusting and has mile long line. If you venture into surrounding areas, many places advertise ‘no restrooms’ and not even ‘restrooms for patrons only’. Starbucks is one option, but the lines are also ridiculous.

    DC has options in every museum and public government building. Even the Memorials have reasonable restrooms. Commercial districts can be a little more difficult, but the low ratio of Starbucks : visitors and large number of hotels makes those good options

  • I often go use the bathroom at Giant on Park Road, but it has become a bit nasty in the past couple of months. And I use the Jury’s Hotel (Dupont Circle) and the Washington Plaza Hotel (Thomas Circle) bathrooms for easy in and out! For some reason, traffice circles make me want to pee! And I was just out on Hains Point and the public restrooms are nice and do have doors in the men’s room.

  • The only problem with the men’s loo at Busboys’ is that everytime someone opens the door (and they always do) one is semi exposed to the patrons checking out the Latino books, but hey, Im Latinoamericano so I guess is OK.


  • I can’t actually remember the last time this was ever an issue for me. I’m not even sure under what set of circumstances this even becomes an issue. I think I must just always go to places that actually have bathrooms? I can’t think of a time that I couldn’t make it to my destination, which is most likely going to have a restroom for its patrons. I don’t do a lot of aimless wandering though – not really my cup of tea. I’m more the “sitting at the bar for hours on end” sort, which works out because bars have bathrooms.

  • Evidently, the alleyway between the Cardozo free clinic and that chinese food place on 14th just south of the CH metro is the most popular public restroom in CH. We call it “pee alley” – it smells so bad, all the time, that we hold our breath when walking by.

    I actually caught one of my neighbors peeing on a building near 14th and Columbia, less than a block from our building at 14th and Harvard. I don’t know his exact deal, but something upstairs runs slower than it should. I couldn’t fathom why he couldn’t make it the one more block to use his own toilet. I didn’t ask though. He’s otherwise a pretty friendly fellow.

    Maybe its all some long-delayed karma; I was caught peeing on my neighbors tree when I was in elementary school. Broad daylight, right next to the street, no way of really hiding it, and no idea why I decided that I had to pee on that tree instead of going inside. We’ll call it a temporary lapse in judgment.

  • For the ladies, when you can’t find a restroom or at least a clean one 🙂

    The Shewee is a moulded plastic funnel that provides women with a simple, private and hygienic method of urinating without removing clothes whilst standing AND sitting.

  • I heart Nichole and agree with her completely.

  • I predict that we will all soon see Nichole’s “In Defense of the She Wee!” do it!

  • Anon 2:18 – do we know each other?

    Because I am in fact the proud owner of the Freshette: (same concept as the She Wee) However, my reason for buying it was that I had a camping trip planned, which coincided with a knee injury, and I was worried that I couldn’t squat if the need arose. It ended up raining, and the trip got canceled, so I’ve never actually used it.

    But, it’s strictly a camping implement. And not even one that I’ve ever had to use.

  • @Nichole! We may know each other, as any friend of PoP’s is a friend of mine! hmm….maybe I lie, but I love the fact you have a Freshette! We could be friends, but please know I have the “Freshette” god gave me.

  • Yeah, more public restrooms. We should put in a shower, bunkbed, hotplate and needle sterilizing station in every single mom & pop restaurant. The homeless have it so hard here.

    Sometimes I feel like I am not really in an urban environment if I don’t have the fear of rape each time I use the restroom.

  • @ Nichole — wonderful comment!

    May I add that Union Station isn’t too bad, but the room in AMERICA restaurant is even better. Penn Sta in NY is getting better too, as is the NY Port Authority, if one is in need of a break after a bus/train ride. The DC Greyhound station bathroom is not recommended.

  • Suitland, Columbia heights are the ones that I know have rest rooms! there is usually a sign in front of the station managers glass office or signs in the walk-way tunnel leading to the fare gates!

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