An Erin, Tennessee business is facing backlash after the owner charged a woman to use the restroom.
Patricia Barnes was mailed a handwritten note to her home requesting a payment of $5 a couple days after she used the restroom at The Flood Zone.
The restaurant is located on Highway 149, nearly 73 miles northwest of Nashville, and less than three miles from Barnes' home.
Signs posted on the restaurant's restroom doors clearly denote “customers only.”
When Barnes entered the business in October, handwritten signs were also posted on the restroom mirrors notifying non-customers of a $5 charge for use.
“It's a $5 charge to use the bathroom,” said Lisa Kent, co-owner of The Flood Zone. “It wasn't so much in wanting the $5. It was to prove, to show them it's for customers only because of the messes that had been made in there.”
In her first on-camera interview since the incident, Kent told Nashville's News 2 her restrooms have been vandalized before by non-customers, and the signs were meant to protect her business.
“We're not a big business. We don't have maintenance men,” Kent said.
Neighboring business owner David Gardner can sympathize.
“We've got a key that we use when the customers come in,” he said.
Gardner owns the HoJo Mini Market across the street from The Flood Zone. His restrooms are kept under lock and key to prevent damage.
“If you do have problems with people coming in, using the bathroom and messing it up real bad, you can say it's out of order,” he said.
The mini market restroom was out of order the day Barnes used the facilities at The Flood Zone.
“She looked at the menu board up there and said, 'Let me go wash my hands.' And she went in the bathroom and stayed approximately 20 minutes,” Kent recalled.
Kent said when Barnes' returned from the restroom, she left the restaurant.
She copied Barnes' vehicle tag number, then called the Houston County Sheriff's Office.
A short time later, she was provided with Barnes' name and address.
“If she would've walked in here and said, 'I got to use your bathroom,' I would've been more than happy to let her use my bathroom then leave,” Kent said.
Instead, Kent mailed Barnes a request for the posted $5 restroom charge.
Barnes attempted to pay up shortly after receiving the notice, but Kent refused to take the money. She said she only wanted to make a point.
Kent's note to Barnes was made public on NBC's “Today” Thursday morning.
Since then, The Flood Zone has be inundated with calls.
“I'd like for the harassment to stop. It's think it's gone a little bit too far,” Barnes said.
Despite the backlash, Kent said her regular customers are staying loyal.
Nashville's News 2 reached out to Houston County Sheriff Darrell Allison regarding the release of Barnes' personal information.
In a phone conversation, a lieutenant said the department had no comment.