Dan Gaertner would rather take his chances outside than use a bar bathroom downtown.
“There’s always a long line and they’re dirty,” said Gaertner, a sophomore, of the bars he frequents. “It might be better to try and go outside.”
While some patrons may risk violating the law, what’s inside some bar bathrooms is just as illegal.
Bar owners must provide toilets, toilet paper dispensers and soap dispensers for customers, according to the Ohio Revised Code.
A handful of downtown bars do not provide these amenities and have not received violations from the Wood County Health Department and Wood County Building Inspection.
Shots Inc., Nate & Wally’s and Brathaus did not provide toilet paper dispensers or rolls in the men’s bathroom upon a visit from The BG News, while Tubby’s Tavern had no soap dispenser.
The men’s bathroom in The Attic has three urinals, but no toilet. While businesses can substitute some urinals for toilets, it can’t substitute them all.
“It’s not right; they should have something for the public to use,” said Mike Rudey, chief building official for Wood County Building Inspection. “A lot happens that we don’t know about.”
When asked about the three urinals in The Attic, a manager said they would look into it and that they haven’t received complaints.
If an underage male had to use a toilet while at The Attic, they would not be allowed downstairs to use the one in City Tap, the manager said.
“We don’t let them downstairs; it’s a 21-and-over bar,” the manager said.
It is illegal to not allow customers access to a toilet.
“It becomes an issue with us if the patrons are not allowed to go to the bathroom,” said Brad Espen, environmental health director for the Wood County Health Department. “It’s an access issue.”
The county investigates a business for violations if a person files a complaint with the county health department, Espen said.
No recent complaints have been filed against any of the bars downtown, as of Sept. 6.
The health department is meeting with The Attic, Shots Inc. and Nate & Wally’s on Monday to determine whether they are violating the building code, Espen said.
While Gaertner prefers not to use the Attic bathroom when he goes, he can see why not having a toilet is an issue.
“When you got to go, you got to go,” Gaertner said.
Building inspectors go into a business when a building is first constructed or a permit is filed to install something, Rudey said.
“We don’t have the man power to drive around town every day to look for violations,” Rudey said.
The county health department inspects a business one to four times a year, Espen said. When they check a bathroom, they look for sanitary issues, not building code violations, he said.
A business files a permit when it is installing a structure in the building.
Not all businesses file permits, which are required when doing this, Rudey said.
In the case of the Attic, Rudey said no permit was filed when it installed a third urinal this past year.
When a business is found to be in violation, it has 14 days to comply before it could be fined double the original permit cost and $100 a day until the problem is fixed, Rudey said.
If the owner fails to correct a problem, the health department will host an administrative hearing or turn the case over to the county prosecutor to take the food and liquor license away, Espen said.
“It’s a three-pronged attack,” he said.
Some bars would rather avoid that risk.
“We try our best to stay on top of that without being in the bathroom every five minutes,” said Andy Gibson, manager of Shots Inc., and head bartender at Tubby’s Tavern.
County officials acknowledge vandalism as a factor that could throw bars out of compliance, as bathrooms can be damaged between inspections.
The reason there is no soap dispenser in Tubby’s is because it was torn off, Gibson said.
“It’s a recurring trend,” he said. “But if it’s violating the code, we’d take care of it.”
Management from Nate & Wally’s and Brathuas could not be reached for comment after multiple requests.
Some bars prefer not to take any risks.
Rick Ault, owner of One 49 North, had no violations along with Beckett’s Bar and Grill, Howard’s and Uptown Downtown when investigated by The BG News.
“You have to stay on top of it,” Ault said. “You never know when the [health department] will come in. It’s the first thing we clean before we open.”
Rudey sees code violations as an ongoing issue.
“It’s always a problem and the owners are obligated to comply with the code,” he said. “It’s just like running a stop sign: unless a police officer is there, you can get away with it.”
Bars in Violation
The Attic - no toilet in men’s bathroom
Brathaus - no toilet paper dispenser
Nate & Wally’s - no toilet paper dispenser
Shots Inc., - no toilet paper dispenser
Tubby’s Tavern - no soap dispenser
No violations found
One 49 North
*Bathrooms were observed in person.