After a few rounds of beer, the bathroom facilities of a taproom can be frequented as often as the entrance. As such, restrooms are a place where breweries can create one more space to bring joy or aid. A restroom is also a place of relief, hence the metonym, and well-appointed ones can offer some form of refuge while you do your business or take time to care for yourself.
In recent years, the restroom amenities offered in breweries and taprooms have continued to expand and become more thoughtful, creating more hospitable environments for all guests. Beyond decent paper products and good soap, here are the essentials — and special touches — breweries are keeping in mind when considering their washrooms today.
Soothing Music and Ambience
“We’ve started piping in meditative ambient music so people can get some respite from the all-out-assault of our usual playlist,” says Nick Nunns, founder and CEO of TRVE Brewing Co. in Colorado. Carrying the title of “Denver’s True Metal Bar,” TRVE is known to manifest that aesthetic throughout its taproom interior. Breweries can get loud, especially a metal-themed one, and for those trying to find some peace, the bathroom might be that unexpected salvation.
At Pure Project Brewing in San Diego, decorative stones line bathroom sinks and an overall “return to nature” vibe expressed in its bathrooms echoes the company’s branding and sustainable initiatives. “The bathroom could be the second most important area in the tasting room, by far,” says Chris Leguizamon, beer education program manager at Pure Project. “It should be an extension of the company’s personality.” From a dimly lit, rustic burlap motif in Miramar to a modern tiled, monstera leaf-filled ceiling in North Park, the washrooms patrons encounter at Pure Project locations are meant to reflect the overall aesthetic of that particular tasting room.
And if you’re feeling particularly musically inspired on your way to the loo, look no further than Right Proper Brewing’s Production House and Taproom in Washington, D.C., where a piano is deliberately placed across the toilet for patrons to use freely.
Free Feminine Care and Family Resources
“In the near future, as part of a new set of interior guidelines for all locations, Mikkeller will have feminine hygiene products available in all bathrooms,” says Rebecca Rist, restaurant manager of WarPigs Brewpub in Copenhagen, Denmark. “This will be mandatory for all Mikkeller-owned locations throughout the world, which is around 40 bars and restaurants in total.”
Mikkeller also uses a system called Ask for Nomi, which is its version of the well-known Ask for Angela signal, for guests or team members who might feel unsafe or are in need of help. “As the restaurant manager, my top priority is making sure everyone feels safe,” Rist says. “Our staff is always keeping an eye out for everyone, and the Ask for Nomi initiative is just one more way we’re looking out for both our guests and our team.”
(Editor’s Note: Writer was a former employee of Mikkeller.)
Safety and accessibility are becoming standard practice throughout taprooms. “We offer feminine hygiene products for free. Also our bathrooms are all gender neutral, and we have a changing table,” says Nick Bonadies, co-owner of Belleflower Brewing Co. in Portland, Maine. “We also post a QR code that links to our code of conduct. Both of our bathrooms also have posters with information on how to get help if you are a victim of sexual assault. In my view, those are basic necessities.”
Betsy Lay, co-founder of Lady Justice Brewing in Aurora, Colo., agrees. “For us, gender inclusivity for bathrooms is a must, so our bathroom signs say ‘Humans.’ Inside, we have bulletin boards with community info and resources for food, housing, and healthcare,” Lay says.
Drug Testing Kits
While working collaboratively with the Hamilton Health Department through initiatives such as alcohol addiction and recovery, the folks at MadTree Brewing in Cincinnati became one of the first restaurants in their area to provide free fentanyl test strips. “There was some apprehension at first due to concern of attracting a different consumer base and potential image issues around providing something that ‘enables’ drug use,” says Mike Stuart, people strategy director at MadTree. “However, we worked with one of their excellent substance use educators who helped us understand the reality and scale of harm done by tampered ‘party’ drugs.”
For MadTree and a growing number of breweries (including Lady Justice and Prairie Artisan Ales in Oklahoma City), providing safety through drug testing kits without judgment is important. “We firmly believe that MadTree exists to help connect people to nature and each other. One way we can aid in building connection is by helping to keep people safe and reducing stigma, so this program made sense,” Stuart adds.
Wall to Wall Chalkboard
Graffiti, stickers, and the like are familiar bathroom sights for many bar-goers, but some operators have leaned into the trend rather than trying to eradicate it. “I’ve always felt that a restroom is what makes or breaks an establishment so I wanted to make sure mine was unique,” says Brian Chan co-founder of Tiger’s Taproom in Oakland, Calif. “When I took over the location, over five years ago, the restrooms were covered in graffiti and all of the fixtures were broken,” he adds. “I didn’t have the money to replace the commercial mirrors so I bought those round security mirrors for only $20 and decided to paint the walls with chalkboard paint as a means of deterring people from graffiti. Now it’s become a canvas of chalk art … and the mirrors have become pretty popular for taking selfies.”
Framed Photo of Brewery Cat and Curated Trinkets
While there are some more common elements when it comes to brewery bathrooms (the aforementioned graffiti and stickers), other facilities take a more imaginative approach. “We knew we had to make the bathrooms something special. … Ours are an eclectic mix of vintage pieces curated by our friends at Lost Coast, along with portraits of pop culture favorites — Patrick Swayze and Robert DeNiro, to name a few,” says Madison Rosenkranz, tasting room general manager at Stoneface Brewing in Newington, N.H..
The hallmark of the Stoneface bathroom includes an homage to its brewery cat, Dwayne. Visiting the restroom feels like being in the living room of an elderly relative. “The vibe is equal parts nostalgia, equal parts Dwayne lover. What more can you ask for?” Rosenkranz says.