- Title: LIFE-BRITAIN/TOILET CAFES An old Victorian public toilet gets cafe makeover
- Date: 28th November 2014
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (NOVEMBER 27, 2014) (REUTERS) PAN FROM STREET TO VICTORIAN METAL GAZEBO EXTERIOR OF THE ATTENDANT CAFE VICTORIAN METAL GAZEBO EXTERIOR OF THE ATTENDANT CAFE METAL POLE WITH "ATTENDANT" NAME AND STREET NUMBER PAN FROM SIGN READING (English): "ESPRESSO + FOOD. GRIND IN DINE OUT. BREAKFAST BRUNCH LUNCH TEA CAKE" TO PEOPLE WALKING UP STAIRS FROM CAFE UNDERGROUND CAFE INTERIOR PORCELAIN URINAL SEATING AREA HAT PLACED ON URINAL CISTERN VARIOUS OF THE ATTENDANT MANAGER, JACINTA PRICE, SERVING CUSTOMERS AND MAKING COFFEE (SOUNDBITE) (English) THE ATTENDANT MANAGER, JACINTA PRICE, SAYING: "It closed as a public toilet in the '50s, so it had been a vacant building up until 2013 pretty much, so it was a mess in here, as far as I'm aware. I've seen the photos on the wall and it looked pretty bad, so there was a lot of clean up involved, which was pretty brave of them to take that on."
- Embargoed: 13th December 2014 12:00
- Location: United Kingdom
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA5RX2FKXV35PIK0Y38VIAGKG2U
- Story Text: Dozens of London's 19th-century public toilets have been left abandoned for decades, but as property prices in the British capital continue to soar, many of them are now being reinvented as restaurants, cafes and bars.
With its distinct iron-wrought gazebo exterior, the Attendant cafe on Foley Street in Fitzrovia may initially appear to be another neglected Victorian gentleman's convenience. However, the signs advertising coffee, breakfast and lunch reveal a very different function.
The Attendant had been lying dormant for half a century before being transformed into an artisan coffee shop. The concept was imagined by two friends who spotted the unused toilet while in the area and thought it had potential to be something unique and quirky.
"It closed as a public toilet in the '50s, so it had been a vacant building up until 2013 pretty much, so it was a mess in here, as far as I'm aware. I've seen the photos on the wall and it looked pretty bad, so there was a lot of clean up involved, which was pretty brave of them to take that on," explained the café's manager, Jacinta Price.
The venue required two years of planning and restoration work before it could be opened as a cafe. But instead of tearing down the interior completely, the owners were committed to retaining as many of the toilet's original features as possible.
"It's an interesting fact actually because on the floor where they've redone the bit here, they managed to find, when they were redoing the floor to cover up the grate that was on there, they imported the same tiles from Spain, which were used in 1890 as well. So they managed to find the same materials, the same suppliers from so many years ago. I think it was really important to maintain the same flow throughout the whole cafe and keep things the same," said Price.
The 1890s porcelain urinals have been disinfected, scrubbed up and remain in place as dividers for individual booths. Despite their previous use, customers often find this feature the most intriguing aspect of the interior.
"Yeh definitely. I think the urinals just over here is the biggest attraction because they can actually sit on it, have a coffee on it, there's a bench over the top. And there's also like a hand dryer behind us on the wall. There's a few little posters and information things, really old newspaper clippings, so it's got quite a bit of history there," said Price.
"I mean it is a beautiful, the urinals are beautiful which is bizarre to say, but the materials they used were all very good quality and it just happens to work really well," she added.
The owners of the Attendant were some of the first to transform London's subterranean public conveniences into dining and shopping venues. The idea has struck a chord and several other businesses are following suit.
"It's almost like it's growing more because this whole toilet-cafe idea is becoming so known. There's a few other places that are doing the same thing that it's becoming the cool thing to do almost, to create something different."
The Attendant has become a popular destination in central London, attracting locals and visitors looking for their cake-and-caffeine fix away from the international franchises.
"I don't know, you think about it maybe how it must have looked 100 years ago and how many people have come in and out. And we were just talking about how many stories must have happened here. It kind of lets your fantasy run a little bit," said one customer, Stephanie Aue.
"Well it's a really creative use of space. It's really interesting. You look around, you've got the urinals over there, I'm not quite sure, this feels like it might've been the stalls. But yeh, it's just really quite interesting," said another customer, James Hankins.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2014. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None