Bathrooms in Princeton: An Under-the-Lid Investigation

Aug. 6, 2023

Reported by PSJP Class of 2023

Written by Alexa Garner, Paula Jimenez, and Bekzod Mamasoliyev

Graphic design by Siobhan Faughnan, Kyle Lin, and Emilia Reay 


You’re running down Nassau Street in a state of panic, frustration, and perhaps extreme concentration. With the clock ticking down, you turn desperately into the first business you see. “Can I use the restroom?” you ask an employee.

The answer in Princeton? Most likely yes. 

An investigation of 54 local businesses by the Princeton Summer Journal found that three-quarters of them made their bathrooms available to non-customers. Bathroom-seekers are more likely to find public facilities in dine-in restaurants than other types of businesses: Of the dine-in restaurants we visited, roughly 4/5 of them had public bathrooms, compared to about half of the take-out restaurants, convenience stores, and other establishments.

Princeton businesses are hardly required to let non-customers use their facilities when nature calls. New Jersey law requires private businesses to provide restrooms for employees, but not for the public. 

Most proprietors allowed our reporters to hit the head without question. An employee at Lil Thai Pin gave a reporter access to their bathroom, even though the facility was technically only for employees. Another reporter asked to use the restroom at Mochinut and was directed to enter the lavatory shared with the neighboring store. Proof pizzeria had a W.C. labeled “for customers only,” but an employee did not stop our reporter from accessing it. 

Investigators were impressed by the quality of certain loos. “It didn’t just look visually appealing,” says Raylan Lin after visiting the bathroom of Ficus, a restaurant and gallery. “It smelled good, had music, and was very clean. … I would live in it if I could.” Both Nassau Diner and Winberie’s had changing tables in their restrooms, and the latter also offered free feminine hygiene products. 

Not all of our toilet-goers were so warmly welcomed. CVS, which is located in an antiquated building, only had a john in the back of a storage area that was inaccessible to the public. At Tipple and Rose, owner Doria Deonati explained that their restroom was once available to the public, but that arrangement was too expensive to maintain. After they switched to a customer-only policy, not only was maintenance more affordable, but the restrooms were cleaner. 

In some cases, bathroom accessibility was a mixed blessing. One reporter found the restroom at Kilwin’s to be a potent nasal experience. Located directly by the entrance of the store, it could be smelt upon entering. 

Taste of Mexico does not provide public bathrooms, according to the manager, who asked not to be named. He said that as tourism around Princeton has increased, more people have shown up wanting to use the big white telephone. His restaurant therefore changed its restroom policy to only allow access to paying customers. However, he made an exception for our reporter.  

The Orange Plunger Awards

After canvassing more than 50 businesses along Nassau St., students nominated their favorite bathrooms:


“It didn’t just look visually appealing – it smelled good, had music, and was very clean. Every other bathroom is boring, white, and smells like nothing. I would live in it if I could.” - Raylan 


“It was clean and the vibes were so calming. The tile was nice and the colors blended well together.” - Terran


“They let us in without buying anything. It was accessible, with two stalls and a baby changing station. Super clean, nice decor.” -Briseyda. 


“It was the most accessible to the public with a changing table and accessibility stall. Also had feminine hygiene products for free!” - Nyria


“It had little decorations that fit the vibe of the restaurant. Also, the bathroom was really clean.” - Ladan