Churches and Coffee Bars
Q: I am a parishioner at a church in New Jersey. We are constructing a coffee bar in our church. The bar will have a sink on the serving side. What are the ADA requirements for the bar and sink on both the serving and “customer” sides?
A: Although the ADA does not apply to the design of churches and other places of worship, the NJ building code requires accessibility in assembly areas such as churches.
If the sink is only used by “employees,” it is technically not required to be accessible; however, it is advisable to provide access to the sink to accommodate an employee who may require access at a future date.
If the sink were to be used by patrons/parishioners, then the sink height is limited to 34 inches above the finish floor. You do not need clearance underneath the sink for someone seated in a wheelchair if you do not have a cooktop/oven in the area described in your question.
On the patron/parishioner side of the bar, you need at least a 30-inch section of counter that is no higher than 36 inches above the finish floor, or you could drop the entire bar to 36 inches high. This height would apply to the type of bar where people are perhaps grabbing common to these types of counters, such as sugar, creamer, and napkins.
If people will be seated or standing at the bar, however, at least 5% of the seated/standing spaces must be accessible and the height of the counter surface is limited to 34 inches maximum above the finish floor. There must be clearance underneath the bar for a front approach (on the customer side) by someone seated in a wheelchair.