Dining With Denise Neil

Tanya’s Soup Kitchen just got rid of its men’s and women’s restrooms

The restrooms formerly known as men’s and women’s at Tanya’s Soup Kitchen now have this symbol on the doors.
The restrooms formerly known as men’s and women’s at Tanya’s Soup Kitchen now have this symbol on the doors.

There’s no more men’s room at Tanya’s Soup Kitchen.

There’s no more women’s room, either.

As of Saturday, the restaurant at 1725 E. Douglas now has two unisex restrooms.

Though restroom news might not seem like the stuff of headlines, Tanya’s Soup Kitchen co-owner Kelly Rae Leffel said that she’s trying to make a statement.

The restaurant has always been known for its diverse and inclusive staff, Leffel said, and she wants her employees and customers to know that anyone is welcome. The current staff has straight, gay and transgender members.

“We’re all equal,” Leffel said.

It was several years ago, when the transgender restroom controversy first started brewing on the national level, that Leffel saw a news story about a restaurant that eliminated the gender assignments on its restrooms. When they did so, instead of a “men’s” sign or a “women’s” sign, they hung up signs depicting the symbol that the late artist Prince used in place of his name for several years. The unpronounceable symbol was meant to signify gender fluidity, among other things.

So for her business partner Sarah Osborn’s birthday this year, Leffel made her two restroom door signs featuring the symbol. She hung them up over the weekend and took down the “men’s” and “women’s” signs on the restaurant's two single-use restrooms.

In addition to making a statement, the change is a practical matter, Leffel said.

Often, a line forms at the women’s restroom, and the staff can’t persuade women they can use the men’s room. Leffel tries to tell them that it doesn’t have a urinal and that it’s cleaned just as thoroughly as the women’s room. But some still can’t be convinced.

“We are a fast-paced restaurant, and this will also help to keep lines from forming,” she said.

There was a line of customers wanting to hug employees when the doors opened for lunch on June 8, 2015. The restaurant’s owner, Tanya Tandoc, was killed June 4, 2015. (video by Jaime Green)

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