Downtown Edmonton merchants are praising the city's decision to spend almost $1 million on public toilets.

They say a $921,000 expenditure in the 2010-11 budget for public toilets, approved by city council Tuesday, takes the pressure off them to allow the public to use washrooms that are supposed to be exclusively for customers.

"There was graffiti all over the wall," said Nahil Hasham, who showed a CBC reporter through the washroom of her coffee shop downtown.

"Graffiti on this wall, this wall, this wall and the mirror. I spent the whole day re-painting the bathroom."

Some of the city money will be spent on a pilot project for public washrooms in the McCauley neighbourhood and near Jasper Avenue west of 109th Street. Initially, they will be portable toilets, with permanent facilities to follow once the best locations are determined.

"It's about time that the city did take responsibility for that. It's really tough. It's tough for us small businesses to survive on this," said Hasham.

Two months ago, she established a new policy where patrons have to buy something to get the washroom key.

There are also plans to build washrooms in transit centres as well as a permanent washroom near Whyte Avenue in Old Strathcona. The exact location will be determined after consultations with the community.