Montreal-area fast food joint allegedly tells client washroom is out of bounds due to pandemic

A sign for All Gender and Accessible Washrooms at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

A South Shore man said there needs to be more communication between staff and owners when it comes to allowing customers to use the bathroom at fast food establishments.

Randy Belham told CJAD 800 News that he was denied access to the bathroom at a La Prairie A&W on the South Shore in November.

Belham said he stopped in one afternoon to pick up some food and use the washroom. Despite having paid for his meal, when he asked to use the bathroom - which was blocked off - he was told by a staff member it was against the law during the pandemic.

"I knew that was wrong," said Belham. "I was polite with her and I said, 'Let me speak to a manager.' A manager came out and said the exact same thing." 

Belham said he really needed to use the bathroom and even asked "from a humanity standpoint" if they could make an exception.

"Another employee, who got angry, told me to use the Tim Horton's or the pizza place across the street," added Belham.

A & W 'REGRETS THE DECISION'

In an email to CJAD 800, A&W head office said they were sorry to hear about the guest's experience. 

"Throughout the COVID crisis we have made every effort to protect the safety of our guests and our staff. We have developed a National COVID Operations Manual that meets or exceeds provincial requirements and recommendations and which includes procedures for use and frequent disinfection of washrooms. The frequency of cleaning and controlled use may result in the washrooms being temporarily unavailable. This is a measure we have in place to protect our guests," said the statement.

CJAD 800 reached out to the owner of the A&W in La Prairie but was told he was unavailable. 

In November, the owner told a local newspaper, "Le Reflet" that there was a misunderstanding and that the bathroom should always be made available to customers. 

BUSINESSES HAVE TO STEP UP: CANADIAN CONTINENCE FOUNDATION

President of the Canadian Continence Foundation, Derick Fage, said this happens far too often. 

"If you're going to be allowed to open for business during a pandemic, you have to go above and beyond for your customers to make them feel comfortable," said Fage. "No fast food company that's making hundreds of millions of dollars can't have a designated employee to wash the bathroom after someone uses it."

Fage said it's important to make a complaint when faced with this type of situation.

"At least it's on file and they know how often it happens," said Fage. "I think that's what we have to start doing with businesses - calling someone that can make a difference and a change in the policies. So they know how often this happens with their customers."

Fage said to also make it known you will no longer bring your business to that particular establishment.

Belham said he has not returned to that branch. 

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