March 4, 2022

Victoria’s Government Street Redesign: No Public Washrooms, But Milano Coffee Shop Saves the Day

Victoria British Columbia is a tourist town and has a lot of businesses on Government Street. So it made sense when I was there with…yes, tourists…that there would be a place where people could use a public washroom.

The problem was that there were no public toilets. Despite the fact that the tourists had purchased quite a lot from the local businesses on the street, no one would let them use their facilities. The one public washroom in a private office building which appeared to be used by many businesses was closed.  One business helpfully suggested the tourists walk three blocks down the street to a coffee shop, which sadly was also shuttered.

But the story does not end there. The coffee shop, Milano Coffee opened up their door and allowed the use of their washroom, even though they were locked up for the day.

That kind act changed the day for the tourists, and also points out a problem that Viewpoint Vancouver has continually covered: we might not like to talk about it, but everyone has to go. It’s a normal function of life, and municipalities should be providing staffed public washrooms as part of the amenity in commercial areas.

Sidewalking Victoria has described the problem with the lack of public washrooms. Because there are NONE on Government Street, the touristic commercial centre. As Sidewalking Victoria states:

“One of the challenges in bringing community together in many places is the lack washrooms in key public places. Think of the work going in on Government Street. There is all of this effort to create a place where people linger and enjoy their time. However, the public washrooms are limited nearby; there is the Portland Loo on Langley, or the library ones on Broughton, the ones run by the Harbour Authority may be open at the Causeway… The rest either along the street or nearby are accessible specifically to customers. With that limitation on a public space, it becomes difficult to convince people to make a long trip there.”

Viewpoint Vancouver was really excited when the Victoria television station carried an article about the redesign of Government Street with new plazas and incorporating First Nations design. But guess what was not mentioned: public washrooms.

The City of Victoria has an online survey for a discussion of the current design, which you can access here. And below is the City’s snappy little urban design video describing some of the concepts for the street redesign. The video commences with ” We asked what would make Government Street one of the best streets in Canada?”

Let me answer that: “Public Washrooms!”

Here’s the City’s YouTube video below.



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  1. my google got me 5 public washrooms on or near Government St. I’m not sure if they’re all open, but Centennial Sq (east of Gov & Pandora) isn’t pleasant but has security, a public urinal at Pandora & Gov, and The Bay Centre (Gov at Fort) mall. There probably should be more than 5. Gov St gets a lot of tourists, but improvement is needed on a lot of other streets too.

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