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Signs on retailer/restaurant doors
November 2, 2005 6:59 AM   Subscribe

In America, it's not uncommon to see stickers posted on retailer/restaurant front doors advising: "THIS DOOR TO REMAIN UNLOCKED DURING BUSINESS HOURS". Other than the fact that keeping the doors unlocked is good for business, what is the history of these and who exactly are they meant for? Employees? Customers?
posted by punkfloyd to Grab Bag (22 answers total)
 
Fire regulations/liability concerns, most likely.
posted by loquax at 7:01 AM on November 2, 2005


Yep, it's fire code.
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:03 AM on November 2, 2005


Fire safety. Doors that have key locks on both sides rather than a keyhole on one side and a knob on the other are a potential fire hazard as people could be locked in without access to the unlocking key.

Accordingly, these types of locking doors are generally forbidden in rental apartments, and must be left unlocked on businesses as you note. (You'll also see the sticker on side doors, not generally used by customers, which are potential fire exits.) It seems nonsensical on the front door, but it makes sense if you realize it applies to all fire exits.
posted by jellicle at 7:07 AM on November 2, 2005


Think Triangle Shirt fire, where the doors to the sweatshop factory were locked during business hours, and 146 people died.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:08 AM on November 2, 2005


I have never seen such a sign in all my years in the United States.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:10 AM on November 2, 2005


I have never seen such a sign in all my years in the United States.

It seems like I used to see them more than I do now. But they are out there.
posted by sbutler at 7:13 AM on November 2, 2005


Pollomacho, look over the top of metal doors in businesses. The sticker is required to be white letters with a red or black background or black letters with a white background, IIRC. It's required by most local fire codes, and the old federal one (before they switched to the International Fire Code, which may or may not require one.)

Reference: City of Bellvue, WA Fire Code, "Exit Doors", #1, Paragraph 2.
posted by SpecialK at 7:16 AM on November 2, 2005


Typical fire code language, courtesy of the City of Bellevue, Washington:

"Exception: Exterior exit doors in general business type occupancies (retail and wholesale sales, office buildings, small restaurants) may have additional locking mechanisms if there is a readily visible, durable sign on or adjacent to the door, stating "THIS DOOR TO REMAIN UNLOCKED DURING BUSINESS HOURS." The use of this exception may be revoked for due cause."
posted by whatitis at 7:17 AM on November 2, 2005


It's part of the fire code in most U.S. municipalities. The fire code requires buildings to have certain numbers of exit ways and exit doors, depending on occupancy and other factors. The fire code further requires that fire exit doors must be openable from the inside without the use of a key or any special knowledge or effort. However, as a special exception, most cities permit general business locations (retail and wholesale sales, office buildings, small restaurants) to claim a door with additional locking mechanisms as a fire exit if there is a readily visible, durable sign on or adjacent to the door, stating "THIS DOOR TO REMAIN UNLOCKED DURING BUSINESS HOURS." Presumably the sign is a reminder that is illegal to lock the door while the building is occupied and is directed at anyone who might attempt to lock the door.

DoItYourself.com has a brief article "How a Flimsy Little Sign Saved Lives" on this very issue.
posted by RichardP at 7:17 AM on November 2, 2005


get outta my head SpecialK...
posted by whatitis at 7:17 AM on November 2, 2005


I went looking after reading this. No signs.

Maybe this is a West Coast thing? I haven't been over there too much in my life.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:33 AM on November 2, 2005


Not a West Coast thing.
posted by desuetude at 7:38 AM on November 2, 2005


Pollomacho: I've seen them on the east coast. Including, I believe, the DC area. Although, I can't recall for sure. I'd guess that any business that has panic bar locks and the such aren't required to have those signs. And I know I've seen in malls signs saying that the gates are required to be remain unlocked/opened during business hours.
posted by skynxnex at 7:41 AM on November 2, 2005


The Admiral is correct as far as the genesis of this little bit of signage is concerned.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:44 AM on November 2, 2005


I saw these all over the Midwest growing up (Minnesota, Wisconsin). Makes me think of the Coconut Grove nightclub fire, and now, the Rhode Island club fire. After that Rhode Island one, friends who'd never before worried about exits started hunting them out when we'd go out.
posted by GaelFC at 8:03 AM on November 2, 2005


Yeah, it's from the Triangle Shirtwaist fire - see OSHA.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:14 AM on November 2, 2005


Pollomacho, try any convenience store. They are the most typical spot to see this.
posted by misterbrandt at 8:22 AM on November 2, 2005


Funny that it's a Triangle thing, as it's not a New York law. I have only seen this type of signage on the West Coast as well.
posted by thejoshu at 8:40 AM on November 2, 2005


Not a West Coast thing.

I never noticed them until I moved to California. My favorite variant was at the Cafe 50s in Hermosa Beach, where they'd added a similar, additional sign right above, which said

Back To The Future

(Unfortunately that branch closed several years ago, but the one in West LA is still open)

posted by Rash at 9:24 AM on November 2, 2005


OK, still no luck in finding one of these. Definitely not a DC thing. I'm going to Texas for the weekend, will try there.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:39 AM on November 2, 2005


We have these signs in Texas.
posted by nadawi at 11:44 AM on November 2, 2005


Funny that it's a Triangle thing, as it's not a New York law.

My theory? New York City's fire codes -- among the strictest in the nation -- do not permit secondary exits to double as fire exits.
posted by dhartung at 11:17 PM on November 2, 2005


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