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Restaurants without toilets | What’s up with that?

Is it legal for an eatery with seating to not have a bathroom for customers?

Last weekend, I was at the Lilliputian resto Great Lake. I’ve always used the bathroom in the back, which required walking through the open kitchen, but this time I was told I could no longer use it. The server suggested I go to Vincent next door or Hamburger Mary’s across the street. Is it legal for a restaurant with seating not to have a restroom for its customers?

You can’t pee at that gourmet pizzeria because it is indeed perfectly legal for a sit-down joint to be toilet-less. “In Chicago, there is no requirement to provide bathrooms for patrons if only food is being sold,” says Chicago Department of Public Health spokeswoman Efrat Stein. “Bathrooms are required for restaurants that have a liquor license and taverns regardless if they sell food. In any case, customers are not allowed to walk through the kitchen.” We can think of a handful of Chicago eateries that bend the latter rule, but Great Lake (1477 W Balmoral Ave, 773-334-9270) co-owner Lydia Esparza says her restaurant changed its potty policy in January due to efficiency and safety concerns. “We’re a tiny shop with seating for 14, and when you come through the kitchen you disrupt the flow,” she says. Also: “We don’t want anyone slipping on flour.” The BYOB pie purveyor does have a relationship with nearby wine shop In Fine Spirits(5418 N Clark St, 773-506-9463), which allows diners to use its lavatory. Which means that when you’re at Great Lake, the ambience is Italian; when you’re at In Fine Spirits, Euro-peein’.

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