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Should Seattle restaurants have needle containers?

Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe is a University District coffee shop and a source of vegan dishes.
Facebook Photo/Chaco Canyon
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Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe is a University District coffee shop and a source of vegan dishes.

Signs of public drug-taking are all over Seattle’s University District.

But an overflowing container of used needles proved too much for one restaurant customer.

Christopher Rufo said it was the container of needles at Chaco Canyon Organic Café on 12th Avenue Northeast that  got to him.

“It disgusted me. And I think it's symbolic of a larger culture of permissiveness and enablement that I've seen in Seattle,” Rufo said.

Rufo said he’d just let his young son use that restroom.

“You have to take on the responsibility to making sure that it's safe, that it's sanitary,” he said.

Rufo is a fellow at the politically-conservative Discovery Institute based in Seattle. His Facebook post triggered a debate — are public needle containers making using drugs too easy?

Another voice from the University District says no.

“If you have been a homeless drug user before, like I have, it is not easy to be a homeless drug user,” said Shilo Jama, an advocate of safer drug use at the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance.

He agrees that used needle containers should not be allowed to overflow. But he sees something else in the idea of a drug user shooting up in a restaurant bathroom.

“We don't have a safe consumption room. And so those bathrooms become the closest thing. And that's why we support safe consumption rooms," Jama said.

Chaco Canyon said people do use needles, it's not safe, and that's why the containers will stay.