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Lack of bathroom access during COVID-19 prompts Vancouver diner to welcome all

Last Updated Jan 24, 2021 at 3:50 pm PST


Businesses would like to see the City of Vancouver offer more public washroom facilities

The owners of the Wallflower Diner on Main Street have opened their bathrooms to people who need it

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The Wallflower Diner owners in East Vancouver are welcoming anyone to use their washroom after noticing many other businesses and public buildings have halted access during the pandemic.

Wife and husband Healthier Szilagyi and Eric Neilson, who own and operate the Mount Pleasant restaurant, say they noticed the need for more accessible toilets early on during COVID-19 when food delivery drivers were asking to use their bathroom.

“Since lockdown, when everyone shut down, everyone shut down their bathrooms. And drivers had been asking us, ‘Do you mind if I use your bathroom?’ and so desperately. I would say ‘Of course you can. Why wouldn’t you be allowed?’ and they would tell me, ‘No one is letting us use the washroom,'” she says.

“I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent just buying things I didn’t want or need from a cafe so we can use the washroom,” she adds.

Szilagyi’s husband notes, the lack of access is particularly difficult for vulnerable people.

“People are already marginalized, and we don’t want to contribute to marginalizing [people] even further,” Neilson says.

The lack of access to washrooms is also something a neighbouring business — Pulp Fiction Books — has noticed.

Both businesses would like to see the City of Vancouver offer more public facilities.

In an email, the city acknowledged there is a need for more washroom access — and expressed gratitude to businesses who have provided bathrooms during COVID-19.

“We are committed to expanding washroom access and are currently finalizing details of new initiatives that will provide immediate action on this issue. This work includes the installation of two new multi-stall washroom trailers and extended hours at a number of City facilities; additional information about this work will be shared in the coming weeks.”

Vancouver City Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung tells CityNews the city has gradually been opening washrooms again. She adds the city has also allocated funding for facilities, and the Park Board has a washroom strategy.

But she says the problem reaches far beyond just having to do your business.

“The lack of washrooms, and defecation on streets, points to the biggest issues like housing. So washrooms are just band-aiding the issue,” Kirby-Yung.