Dear Gothamist,

A lot of restaurants have signs that say “Restrooms for Customer Use Only.” Is it ethical to use these bathrooms even though I’m not a paying customer? What if I really have to go?

Jay L., East Village.

Gothamist knows a person who, based on the amount of money she spends there, refers to all Starbucks locations as her “personal citywide bathroom.” In her reasoning, the number of times she goes in and spends four bucks on a Caramel Macchiato without using the facilities more than makes up for the times when she just runs in to pee.

But presumably, you are asking about a business at which you have never dropped a dime. In such a case, the ethical thing to do to would be to comply with the establishment’s policy. Toilet paper and cleaning supplies are not free, and, with the possible exception of Bar 89, no one opens a business with the hope of attracting a lot of people to the bathroom. If it’s an emergency and you simply…must…pee…now, offer to buy something or at least tip the person who graciously bent store policy to let you use the loo.

Hotels, libraries, and even your neighborhood Barnes & Noble typically have bathrooms that the average Joe can use without having to open his wallet, a sharp contrast to the city of the future imagined in Urinetown. We would be remiss, however, if we didn’t acknowledge that the lack of public restroom facilities is a big problem for the city’s homeless and wonder when those pay toilets we've been promised will show up on city streets.

Techies with wireless access and loyal Vindigo users can look up geographically convenient public restrooms by searching The Bathroom Diaries.