Saturday, November 24, 2012

How Many Bathrooms?

Before we were granted a waiver for the grease interceptor that Megan wrote about in her last post, we had to attend a meeting of the Omaha Plumbing Board to ask for another waiver. 

On September 12, 2012, Megan, Barbi and I (and our team of professionals from Bahr Vermeer Haecker and Alvine Engineering) walked into a conference room on the third floor of the City/County Building prepared to request a waiver to allow a unisex bathroom. Upon entering the room, it occurred to me that this was where all the men in Omaha congregate. Five rows of men wearing heavy denim and Carhart, and suddenly I remembered the men of my past career. . . . as an environmental consultant! Oftentimes we would stand on sites in the center of construction and talk to the men who would be making the intangible tangible. I've always found this type of man comforting, quite like the teddy bear you can't give up.

Section 49-631 of the Omaha Plumbing Code details the requirements that must be in place for an ADA compliant unisex bathroom to be installed, rather than two ADA compliant restrooms. The space taken up for two large bathrooms would've reduced the space needed for our kitchen, and it's a tight fit to begin with. The part of the code that our situation did not satisfy, and thus would've disallowed us from having a unisex bathroom, was this:

Unisex bathrooms shall not be installed in the following facilities. . . . (4) Where food or drinks are prepared or served except in a business where the customer is served food and/or drink only from a drive up window and there are four or fewer employees and the gross area of the building is 600 square feet or less.

While we will have fewer than four people working on the premises, we will be serving food and our area is about 900 sq ft (greater than the allowable 600 sq ft). 

Similar to deciding to remove the bacon-maple muffin from the menu, we decided to remove the limited seating (four stools) we had originally planned for the bakery. This was an easy decision as the space didn't allow for much seating to begin with, and we plan on being a drop-in, rather than eat-in, bakery. 

Megan, Brian Hadfield (Alvine Engineering) and myself were summoned to sit at the table with the 7 folks representing the Board, and explain our case. Within less than 10 minutes, we'd explained our situation, answered questions, been ribbed about not bringing cupcakes, and were granted a waiver that allowed us to have one bathroom instead of two. Here are the Minutes of the Plumbing Board from that day. And, here's Omaha's Plumbing Code. It's a dense read and you can find great ingredients for poetry, like the word roughing-in for instance!

We hope you come and visit us and use our unisex bathroom; it will have a urinal!!

Thanksgiving was a couple of days ago, and here's a photo of my vegan pumpkin pies just before they went in the oven! Happy Holidays!

~ Trilety

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