Locked out: Why accessing a public restroom in Denver is becoming increasingly difficult

DENVER — There are many euphemisms to describe a restroom, but the word vault may come to mind when trying to access one in Denver as more and more businesses across the city restrict access to their facilities.

Restaurants, coffee shops, and even grocery stores are installing locks, making it more difficult for customers or the general public to answer nature’s call. 

Yes, we're talking about public restrooms. 

What was once a seamless process, now requires the public to ask staff for a code, key or wait to get buzzed in.

The trend may be a minor inconvenience to customers, but business owners say safety concerns are prompting the move. 

They say the apparent increase in the number of transients, drug use and crime in some areas of the city are contributing factors to what some may see as a Draconian-like approach to bathroom security. 

A spokesperson for the largest grocery chain in Denver tells Denver7 that it has placed locks on facilities at three locations where issues like crime and drug use are prevalent. 

Customers trying to use the bathrooms at King Soopers at 9th and Downing are now greeted with a keypad lock and instructions to contact employees for the code. 

A similar setup is in place at two other King Soopers locations in and around downtown.

Adam Williamson, a spokesperson for the Kroger-owned chain, declined to mention any specific incidents but says controlled access cuts down on potential criminal activity from taking place inside the restrooms.

He said the King Soopers at Speer and 14th near downtown once had special lights installed inside the restrooms to prevent intravenous drug use. The lights made it difficult for users to find a vein. 

The lighting has since been removed, but the locks remain, Williamson said. 

Williamson said the chain has no immediate plans to install locks at other locations, but mentioned the days of free public restroom use for customers of restaurants and other shops are probably over. 

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