Bar's fee for water sparks row

SAM SACHDEVA
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2013
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The floodbanks have burst in a debate over whether bars should charge for water after a Christchurch bar owner and a patron argued over the issue.

In a post on Facebook, Nikita Rindel said she and her friends were asked to leave Cruz in Victoria St after debating the cost of water on Saturday night.

Rindel and her friends had paid a cover charge to enter and bought a round of drinks, but balked at being asked to pay $4.50 each for two glasses of water.

"I refused to pay this and spoke to the owner, who told me ‘it is what it is'," Rindel said.

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

Rindel told The Press it should be "unacceptable" for bars to charge for water. "It's free water. If you're not paying for it, how can you charge for it?" she said.

Cruz owner Bruce Williamson said the bar's policy was to supply free tapwater 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 to help cover the costs of providing DJs and other entertainment.

"We're a nightclub, not a tavern. There's a charge for everything we do, and the costs are rising in Christchurch," he said.

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

press.co.nz online poll attracted thousands of votes, with over 5000 voters stating bars should supply free tap water.

The Christchurch City Council's host responsibility guidelines do not say that water must be provided free, although non-alcoholic drinks must be available for purchase.

Other city bars were quick to reject the idea of charging for water.

CBD Bar co-owner Zak Cassels said he was happy to provide free water and did not have concerns about potential freeloaders.

"It's just part of hospitality, looking after people and giving them what they want. Not everything needs to be a financial transaction," he said.

Fox and Ferret Palms general manager Will Garrett said the Shirley bar provided free water to anybody who asked for it, with no conditions attached.

"As long as people are allowed into our bar, why shouldn't they be [able to have free water]?" he said.

Canterbury District Health Board medical officer of health Alistair Humphrey said free water should be provided at all bars to reduce the risk of alcohol-related health issues.

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"One of the effects of alcohol is dehydration, and with the hot days and nights we've been having at the moment, the provision of water is very important," he said.

The debate could soon dry up.

Legislation set to take effect in December will require bars to provide free water to customers, taking the issue out of owners' hands.

- The Press

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