As someone who ended up using a fraternity house's bathroom on Halloween, you would think I'd be against Franklin Street merchants charging noncustomers for using their bathrooms, but I'm not. In fact, I'm glad they do.
The other side of the argument goes something like this: The businesses are getting increased revenue because of all the people who party on Franklin Street, and along with the customers come people who just want to use the bathroom.
In short, it's selfish for restaurant owners to charge people for using their bathrooms when they're already getting more business than they normally do. They should just suck it up and realize that all the new bathroom users are just part of Halloween in Chapel Hill.
That argument might be valid if the merchants were charging for the use of their bathrooms just to make money. But I don't think they are.
Miami Subs charged noncustomers $2 to use the bathrooms.
Owner Arthur Dragoslis said his restaurant isn't that big, and he wanted to be able to serve the people who were customers. He said he only charged noncustomers for the use of the bathroom to discourage them from using it so that people who were buying food could use it.
"It wasn't for the money," Dragoslis said.
That certainly sounds fair to me.
Dragoslis went on to say that safety was his first concern on Halloween. There were two employees at the front and back doors, and customers were allowed to only go in through the front door and out through the back door so that they could control how many people were in the restaurant.
The only major problems Miami Subs had were with people who were drunk and set on going out the front door, he said.
"It was the best Halloween we've seen yet as far as crowd control was concerned." Dragoslis has been the owner of Miami Subs for four years.
Hector's didn't charge noncustomers for using its bathrooms Wednesday night, but they wanted to, manager Jose Constantino said. He said it was just impossible to do without charging customers as well, because there would have been no way to distinguish between the two groups. (Miami Subs got around the problem by stamping people's hands after they ordered.)
Constantino said the reason he wanted to charge people was that he knew there would be too many people trying to use the bathrooms, and they would just trash them. And he ended up being right.
"We had a big mess in the restroom," he said.
Hector's might have been able to avoid that mess by charging people, but Constantino said it wouldn't have been fair to charge customers and not just noncustomers.
If Hector's had wanted to make money off its bathrooms, it could have.
Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go, and even customers might not have argued with the policy if they were desperate enough.
But because they couldn't do it fairly, they couldn't do it at all.
If you've ever been in Hector's at 2:05 a.m. on a Thursday, you know how crowded it can get, and Constantino said it was (predictably) more crowded than usual, but most people were pretty nice.
He said on some regular nights there are fights, but there weren't any Tuesday.
The two extra employees might have helped, Constantino said.
It's the businesses' right to do what they want with their bathrooms, and it's their responsibility to provide a safe environment for customers. It seems like Franklin Street merchants fulfilled that responsibility and had good reasons for charging for bathroom use.
If you don't want to shell out a couple bucks to take a leak, then suck it up and head to a fraternity house or a good bush.
Columnist Erin Mendell can be reached at email@example.com.