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April 24, 2006

REALLY GOTTA GO — Bar Bathrooms: Loving and loathing Louisville loos

If you think about it, given any one night at a bar, you can spend a good deal of the time in the bathroom — waiting in line, doing your business, gossiping, re-applying lipstick or, for those with weak livers, white-knuckling the rim. A bar bathroom is a lot like a bedroom — some you don’t mind hanging out in at length, and others you wouldn’t be caught dead in. I suppose you could even say they’re a window into the soul of the bar itself.As a public service, LEO scoured the town looking for the very best, and the very worst, bar bathrooms. It was a challenging assignment, to be sure, but one we realized was necessary. To uphold our mission of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, we exposed our bare bums to the most wretched conditions (remember high school health class, when they assured us the only thing you can really catch from a toilet seat is crabs?). And then we pampered them in the most pleasing loos (yes, more powder, please … lower).(DISCLAIMER: Although I have, on occasion, snuck into a men’s restroom, I only evaluated women’s rooms for this article. Bathrooms were judged on appearance, convenience and that “extra mile” in both cases. Number of stalls mattered. As did hooks on the back of doors for your purse. Sinks mattered. Automatic flushing mattered. Soap quality mattered. And for the ones in the “worst” category, please do not assume they are bad bars. Quite the contrary. Sure, they may have issues with their toilets, but I found all three bars on our list to be completely charming, with the nicest, friendliest and most down-to-earth staff, and the quirkiest atmosphere. Instead of “worst,” let’s think “weirdest.” Got it?)Contact the writer at shavens@leoweekly.com THE GOOD:  Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge(446 S. Fourth St., 568-9009)The sink is definitely the draw here. Two faucets jet from the wall; the water cascades onto a flat steel basin. The rest of the room is stainless steel against fire-engine red tile. It makes me want to pee just thinking about it. The soap had nice consistency, and the place was fairly spotless. It’s everything the Outlook Inn bathrooms aspire to be.Number of stalls: 3Automatic flush: YesHooks on the inside of doors: Yes Saints(131 Breckinridge Lane, 891-8883)If you’re lucky enough to get upstairs to the private club (although sometimes on the weekends, a mere $5 will gain you entrance), make sure to pitstop in the restroom. Saints sure knows how to pamper VIP-ers. They forgo the stall system in favor of private rooms (think Macy’s or Jillian’s Atlas club), which makes it less stressful if your business requires more than a tinkle. The larger restroom, in fact, is bigger than the Blue Banana! (Obscure “Pretty Woman” reference; it’s bigger than some bedrooms.)Number of stalls: 2Automatic flush: NoHooks on the inside of doors: YesProof on Main (702 W. Main St., 217-6360)Private eyes, they’re watching you/They see your every move … clap clap. This is by far one of the creepiest, but nicest, bathrooms in the city. They do things up nice with the stainless steel and all, but it’s the mirror that gets the props here. Several small screens project images of eyes as you’re washing your hands in the Makers-like flat sink. And some, in fact most, are eyes of blind people. What does it all mean? Beats me. Kinda turned me on, though, in a mile-high kinda way. Is that weird?Number of stalls: 4Automatic flush: YesHooks on the inside of doors: YesTHE BAD:THE BAD:  Air Devil’s Inn (2802 Taylorsville Road, 454-4443)C’mon. We all love our Air Devil’s Inn. You can’t beat their prices, and live music always rules. But something’s gotta go in this category, so we’re gonna pick on the bar (and toilets?) that has been around since 1934. I’ll never forget my first time in the ADI bathrooms. Never before had I seen a shower curtain double as a door. Although shower curtains are often more colorful than regular doors, there’s always that problem of the “locking” issue. It’s hard to see if someone’s in the stall, so often you get the always-polite walk-in apology. And the toilet paper on a rope is a nice touch — a little odd, but nice.Number of stalls: 2Automatic flush: Are you kidding?Hooks on the inside of doors: What doors?Patrick’s(3202 Frankfort Ave., 897-6962)It looks like the shower curtain idea has caught on. Patrick’s also boasts two lovely shower curtains instead of doors. Although Air Devil’s went with the tropical island theme, Patrick’s sticks with the tried-and-true jungle scene, complete with a lurking cheetah, ready to pounce on anyone who might leave a sprinkle on the seat. Patrick’s gets a thumbs up for the Wild West swinging doors that you enter to get to the bathrooms. Stick ’em up!Number of stalls: 2Automatic flush: NahHooks on the inside of doors: Don’t think so.Charlie’s Tavern (969 Charles St., 636-3509)Funny thing about Germantown — a majority of its watering holes have situated the sink OUTSIDE the restrooms, in full view of the rest of the bar patrons. Although this isn’t as troublesome as using a shower curtain as a door, it is kind of odd to realize that everyone in the place is watching to see if you wash your hands. Just need to retouch the gloss? Still better wash. Charlie’s also provides an ample amount of reading material taped to the walls, including the sign: “This bathroom was cleaned last week. Sorry you missed it!” Two things that were strange, if you will: a full-sized mirror directly across from the toilet (never realized what I looked like in hunch mode) and a full-sized cardboard cutout of Tim McGraw. Nice touches include a sculpture of three dolphins frolicking in a wave that sat on top of the toilet, and instead of Men and Women signs, Charlie’s uses “Nuts” and “No Nuts.” Fabulous.Number of stalls: 1Automatic flush: NoHooks on the inside of doors: Oddly, no.