Tagging toilets:access for businesses

I’ve been mapping businesses in my area, and a piece of information I like to include is whether or not they have toilets (via the toilets=yes/no tag). I also try to include toilets:access=customers when there is some restriction on access of the toilet to the public, but I wanted to get the community’s opinion on when this tag should and shouldn’t be used.

The Key:access wiki page says we should map legal access. The anemity:toilets page provides a bit of further color. But there are still many scenarios where I end up waffling on whether the toilet’s access is yes or customers. Some scenarios:

  1. A public library where anyone who walks in is welcome to use the restroom. Seems like obviously toilets:access=yes (or just won’t include the access info).

  2. A convenience store where anyone who walks in can use the restroom, and the staff makes no attempt to, or has no interest in, stopping people from doing so. Social norms in the US say it’s polite to buy something, but nobody would really have second thoughts about using the restroom without making a purchase.

  3. The same convenience store as above, but a sign posted at the entrance says “restroom for customers only.” Regardless, the staff doesn’t seem to care.

  4. A fine dining establishment with no posted sign regarding restroom access. Social norms in the US say it would be rather inappropriate to walk in in your street clothes, use the restroom, and leave.

  5. A coffee shop with a restroom that requires a key, which the staff will only provide if you buy a drink. This is the only one that’s very obviously toilets:access=customers to me, considering it’s a physical restriction (unless you’re skilled with lockpicks).

The “legal access” guideline isn’t particularly useful here, since in most US jurisdictions it isn’t strictly illegal to disobey a “restroom for customers only” sign. In theory the owner would have to note your unauthorized restroom usage and have you trespassed from the property by the police, for this sign to actually have the force of law (although I’m not a lawyer so I may be wrong about this).

I suppose one obvious solution is to simply go in to the establishment, ask to use the restroom without buying anything, and see what the staff says. But this is rather tedious when mapping large numbers of businesses, and also may depend on who’s working and whether they’re in a good mood that day.

Curious to get your thoughts on how to approach this!


When the toilets are meant to be used by customers I would tag them as such, notwithstanding if the staff cares about this issue or not. Non-customers who want to use these restrooms will do so anyhow, it you tag them as public or for customers only.

Generally I understand a toilet in a shop or restaurant to be privately owned so it is not public unless signed as public.

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Quite often, someone who wishes to use a toilet will be in a hurry to find one that they can access without much undue fuss and delay. Therefore, if a toilet is technically off-limits to non customers, then in my opinion, the most appropriate tag would be toilets:access=customers, unless you are sure that the staff they encounter there will always not seem to care, regardless of the time of day, the day of the week, or whether or not the boss is present. So …

  • For the first two of your scenarios, toilets:access=yes should work.
  • For the third one, quoted above, local knowledge of the situation is important. If you or someone you know has been there often and always observed that anyone is welcome at any time, then toilets:access=yes may be adequate for that situation as well. If you are not pretty sure about the reliability of such access, then toilets:access=customers seems safest.
  • For the final two scenarios, toilets:access=customers seems best.

Yes, that page is indeed quite colorful, meticulous, and artfully illustrated. :wink:

Upon further thought, the above seems the best policy for tagging toilets that are officially reserved for customers only. This relates primarily to the third scenario that you presented, wherein the status of access may be uncertain in actual practice. Let individuals and groups decide for themselves whether they would like to try to use them despite what the sign indicates.

A hazard with tagging toilets that are signed for customers only as toilets:access=yes would be that it may increase the frequency of unauthorized use that could, in turn, lead to a shift to a less permissive attitude among the staff. It would be best for OpenStreetMap not to get a reputation for sending people to places where they will be denied access.

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Thank you both for your responses. I agree a conservative approach (i.e. leaning towards customers) is probably appropriate here. The primary use case I imagine is someone entering “restroom” into a mapping application, and the program showing POIs which are either amenity=toilet, or anything else with toilets=yes on it. As @Oak_Leaf mentioned, such a person might want assurance they won’t be hassled to buy an item they don’t need, so toilets:access=yes should probably be reserved for cases where it’s unambiguous.