Portable Party Potties

'Porta-potties?" asked Patrick, eyebrows raised in disbelief. "You're going to write about porta-potties? Just tell me you aren't going to open with a story about what Uncle Harold did to our downstairs bathroom at last year's reunion."

All I'll say is that it was a bad time for the plumbing to back up. And with 200 people, 75 of them small children, we couldn't afford to have bathrooms out of commission. I wasn't about to let it happen again.

Kristin Reynolds, regional manager for Royal Restrooms off of Waring Road (877-922-9980; www.royalrestrooms.com), was sympathetic. "We've done back-yard family reunions, barbecues, baptisms — you name it," she said. "Any large family venue where there are just not enough restrooms. Or maybe they're on septic. We've done a lot of septic rescues — people are in the middle of a wedding reception, and they think their septic can handle it, and then an hour into dinner, it backs up. We'll go right out — the last thing you want is for people to have to leave the big day because there aren't facilities available."

Reynolds pointed out that her company offers restroom trailers — not porta-potties. "We definitely believe that porta-potties have their place. But for a higher-end event, especially in July and August when the weather is hot, the last thing you want is an eyesore and an odor."

The list of differences between the two began with plumbing. "A porta-potty just has a hole, so you can see everybody's business, and there's no ventilation. All of our restroom trailers have flushing, porcelain toilets." Those designated for men include urinals. Then the list moved on to space. "Typically, with porta-potties, you walk in and everything is very cramped and you don't want to touch anything. That's not the case here. The single-stall trailer is 14 feet long. Within the trailer, you have a sink and a vanity — the countertop is about three feet by four feet. Then on either side of the counter, you have the toilet and the urinal. The individual stalls are roughly five and a half feet by five and a half feet, and over six feet tall. There's plenty of room if you need to accompany a child or someone else who needs assistance."

Reynolds told me that the single stall would "serve up to 80 people over a five- or six-hour time frame; the double, up to 200; and the triple, up to 300. As far as capacity, we look at one stall per every 100 people. But, if you're having an event with a lot of food and alcohol, I would advise one stall for every 80 people, just to keep the lines down. It's very clean and very efficient. Even though the units have air-conditioning and heating, running water, and a pump system, they require only 20 amps. There's an onboard converter, so it just needs a regular household plug. When you look at your electrical bill, it's like plugging in a lamp. For water, the unit uses a straight hose connection; it has an electric heater for providing hot water. The sink water is also used to flush the urinals, so you're not using an abundance of water. And if you have no water or electrical nearby, we can fill the onboard water tank and bring in whisper generators. We do a lot of mid-field weddings."

The single-stall trailer runs $785; the double stall, $1185; and the two stalls plus ADA-approved handicapped stall, $1685. And if you want a little more luxury in your two-stall powder room, you can order up the "platinum edition" for $300 more. "It's fun — solid oak floors, oak trim, oak cabinetry. The feeling is warmer. And you can have music in the background. It has a matte platinum exterior. Typically, it's for weddings, but we've done a lot of record releases, things for the entertainment industry."

The price includes everything except delivery (which varies by distance) and the optional power/water supply. "We deliver the unit with a regular pickup truck, so if there's accessibility, we can navigate your backyard. If you were doing a wedding at, say, four in the afternoon, we would bring the trailer in that morning and pick it up the following morning. But if you're at a location that does not allow for overnight stays, or if you've rented it for only eight hours or something, we can deliver and pick up on the same day without an additional charge." Additional days can be had for a considerable discount. "The two stall is $1185, but it would be only $200 for each additional day."

I also gave a call to Betty at Diamond Environmental Services in San Marcos (760-744-7191); she offered something midway between a porta-potty and the royal treatment. "For weddings, we rent the 'Solar Executive Restroom.' They're flushable, and they have a light and a mirror and a hand-wash. They come with toilet paper and paper towels, and they're self-contained; you don't have to hook them up to water or power. Each offers 125 flushes." Spacewise, "they're four by four-and-a-half feet and eight feet tall. An individual restroom would be $270 for the weekend; we deliver on Friday and pick it up on Monday. For pick up and delivery on the same day, there's a $250 charge. To get two individuals on a trailer is $470, and you can get four on a trailer for $870. We have an event calculator to determine how many you need. For 250 to 500 people, you would need six units."

1. Royal Restroom "platinum edition"
2. Diamond Environmental Services solar restrooms

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