A shortage of public restrooms in a north shore Kauai community has grown more acute since merchants have cut off access to privately maintained bathrooms to all but paying customers.
Merchants in Kilauea say vandalism and high demand forced them to limit the private restrooms. Meanwhile, complaints have escalated from visitors who don't want to use a portable restroom or take a two-minute walk to the town's only public restrooms at Kilauea Park.
"It has gotten to be definitely unpleasant," said Patricia Ewing, owner of Kong Lung Historic Market Center and Kong Lung Trading store.
Ewing bought the historic market center in 1995. She put in four new septic systems on the property, including one for a church, a deli, the Lighthouse Bistro restaurant and Kilauea Bakery. Until closing in March, they were open to the public but had to be repeatedly pumped.
At least two nearby shopping centers referred customers to Kong Lung's restrooms, Ewing said. Homeless people bathed there and tour buses pulled in the parking lot so passengers could use the restrooms, she said.
The Lighthouse Bistro owner decided to charge a $10 fee for non-customers. Restaurant patrons can use the restroom for free. Ewing said the Bistro's owner, Matt Ernsdorff, chose the fee amount based on what customers would spend on a drink.
Ewing last week added two portable restrooms to the market place. They require a key from the market place. Some people insist on using facilities inside.
Staff members at the Kilauea Fish Market, Healthy Hut and Kilauea Bakery, which have outside seating but no customer restrooms, direct patrons to restrooms at Kilauea Park. The lack of facilities at businesses is having an effect on the park.
"Park maintenance crews are struggling to keep up with the extra use of this restroom, and certainly would prefer if other restrooms were available to the public," county officials said by email to The Garden Island (http://bit.ly/13AHzou ).
Theft and vandalism are rampant.
"Restrooms and portable toilets are literally 'trashed,' and toilet paper and napkin supplies are stolen regularly following scheduled re-stocking of the products," county officials said.
Ewing said most of the problem would be solved if the nearby Kilauea Neighborhood Center would make its restroom available and county officials are considering it. The demand for public restrooms is a problem throughout the island.
"The addition of new public restroom facilities islandwide will be a high priority for future capital improvement projects and public funding," county officials said.
Information from: The Garden Island, http://thegardenisland.com/