Fury over $4.50 charge for water

FURIOUS: Nikita Rindel says it is "unacceptable" not to provide free tap water.
FURIOUS: Nikita Rindel says it is "unacceptable" not to provide free tap water.

A Christchurch bar is at the centre of a growing row after it charged a customer $4.50 for water.

A female patron was kicked out of Victoria St gay bar Cruz on Saturday night after a heated dispute arose when she complained about being charged $4.50 for water.

In a comment on the Christchurch City Council's Facebook page, Nikita Rindel said she had been at the bar with friends on Saturday night when she ran into problems.

BRUCE WILLIAMSON: Owner of the Cruz bar.
BRUCE WILLIAMSON: Owner of the Cruz bar.

''I paid a cover charge for myself and four others as well as bought a few drinks. I then asked for two glasses of tap water, and the bartender advised me it was $4.50 each,'' she said.

''I refused to pay this and spoke to the owner, who told me 'it is what it is' and then [allegedly] pushed me away from the counter I was standing at.''

Rindel said the owner called security and the group was kicked out of the bar. ''The arrogant and aggressive behaviour of the owner ruined our entire evening.''

She said it should be ''unacceptable'' for bars to charge customers who ordered tap water.

The Facebook comment, which has since been removed, attracted nearly 3000 likes and almost 500 comments after it was posted early on Sunday.

Cruz owner Bruce Williamson told The Press the bar's policy was to supply free tap water to anyone who was buying drinks, had made a purchase earlier or was showing signs of ''physical distress''.

Anyone else had to pay for bottled water, he said.

"This debate has been around millions of times. Our water policy is part of our liquor licence applications. It is good, it is legal and it is fair."

Bar staff told Williamson that Rindel had not bought anything at the bar, so she had been asked to pay.

Williamson said Rindel had been asked to leave after allegedly abusing bar staff, and he lifted her hand off the DJ's equipment that she was leaning on while yelling at him.

The cover charge was intended to cover ''a night of entertainment'' in the bar and not free water, he said.

''It is clearly worth paying or we would not have queues waiting to pay it."

Williamson said his legal representatives had asked the council to remove the comment thread from its page.

The council's host responsibility guidelines for licensed premises state that ''a reasonable range of non-alcoholic refreshments are available at all times'', but does not specify whether any should be provided free of charge.

However, the guidelines suggest that bars consider providing free soft drinks, tea or coffee to ''potentially intoxicated patrons''.

The Press