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City renews push for public bathrooms on Downtown Mall

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 6:13 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville is looking to resolve an issue that has affected the Downtown Mall for years: the limited availability of public restrooms.

The public restroom in City Hall and at the Downtown Transit Station are both currently closed off due to the threat of COVID-19. That means it has been on the shoulders of businesses to provide for people on the mall since there is no other option.

“I think the city does have a role to play, and the city manager and certainly city councilors are hearing that something needs to be done,” Charlottesville Spokesperson Brian Wheeler said.

Wheeler says Charlottesville is working on a solution: “I think public restrooms on the Downtown Mall have probably been an issue since the beginning,” he said. “It’s been a challenge over the past year with a pandemic, and I think that’s made it harder for businesses to open their facilities because of public health concerns.”

Chaps Ice Cream owner Tony LaBua says he opened his doors to those who need to use a restroom.

“I mean, if you gotta go, you gotta go, you know?” LaBua said. “It’s just inconvenient not to have a restroom.”

Wheeler says the city is getting great feedback from people like LaBua.

“The business owners love this idea, because what do they see: they see people coming in the door and asking if they can use their restaurant. So we can’t rely on business owners to always be there to help,” Wheeler said.

“Public restrooms on the Downtown Mall would be great. I think they would need to be monitored in some fashion, and certainly clean,” LaBua said.

Charlottesville is reaching out to business owners and other downtown stakeholders, as well as looking at city facilities to find a spot for restrooms.

“It really comes down to having the right facility that we can make sure it’s safe and secure, and also is properly maintained,” Wheeler said. “Having a staffed facility really is the ideal solution, but of course that involves more expense.”

Wheeler adds that the city is in the early stages of planning. There is no set timeline on when restrooms could be available.

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