I stood there for a minute thinking I had found the perfect solution to the bathroom wars playing out in our society.

Zandra’s Taqueria in Old Town Manassas is one of my favorite restaurants. I had withdrawal symptoms during its recent remodeling, so when I noticed it had re-opened, I had to get a lunch “fix.”

After lunch, I hit the bathroom to “wash my hands.” The door was open, and the sign indicated it was gender-neutral (man/woman). I don’t normally pay much attention to bathrooms, but as I walked through this door, I was impressed.

On my right were three private rooms with floor-to-ceiling walls and traditional private doors.  On my left were two sinks.  A full-length mirror was on the wall. I stood there for a minute thinking I had found the perfect solution to the bathroom wars playing out in our society.

Miguel Pirez owns Zandra’s. We chatted about his bathroom design. Pirez said it was a simple business decision. His architect worked with the city of Manassas to sort out the code issues.  I hope Prince William County is also looking at its code regarding bathroom design and considers Pirez’ model.  

The new design is more efficient and solves a lot of problems. Ever notice the line of women standing at their bathroom door while facilities are available in the men’s bathroom? This design is simply more efficient for a busy restaurant and many other businesses. Pirez is also sensitive to the social issues involved, the “who should go in which door” issue. Pirez considered this an elegant solution that makes this issue moot. A few folks prefer the old model. Zandra’s also has a traditional single-user bathroom for them.

I thought I should confirm I was on to a really great solution to something. As an unrepentant and hopelessly straight white male, I don’t feel qualified to really judge things like this. I phoned a friend for some expert advice.  

I called Evelyn BruMar, the executive director and founder of Casa BruMar Foundation, a Prince William County human rights commissioner, and a member of Virginia’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.  BruMar confirmed this is a really good solution that satisfies a lot of issues.  She said it’s in use in many places around the country.  

BruMar put things in perspective: “A bathroom’s one purpose can be fully utilized without prejudice or discrimination.  When you include the least among us [LGBTQ+, children and people with disabilities], you end up supporting everyone.”

BruMar pointed out that privacy is important to everyone. Ever see a mom take sons or dads take daughters into a bathroom? The usual stalls, if any, offer little actual privacy and provide unintended opportunities for a little accidental – perhaps unwelcome – “sex education.”  The disabled sometimes have special challenges when using bathrooms and appreciate privacy.

I’m on the “don’t care who is in the bathroom with me” side of this issue. That being said, the “bathroom bill” debates going on across the country indicate some people do care.  Zandra’s bathroom architecture is how we should build or remodel public bathrooms in the future.  Schools might consider this design for new construction and remodeling projects. To borrow from Abraham Lincoln, Pirez’ bathroom design should satisfy most of the people most of the time.  

For the record, I am a fan of Zandra’s Cuban Tacos and Elote (Mexican Street Corn).  Go for the food, but check out the bathroom. This might make Zandra’s another Old Town Manassas tourist attraction.

I guess I’ll be paying more attention to bathroom design in the future.

Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week.  You can learn more about Al at www.alborn.net and LinkedIn.

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