By Isabel Nyathi
This article is exclusive to the online Edition 1 of VARSITY Newspaper.
Although ‘Day Zero’ has been moved and postponed several times in the last month, us Capetonians shouldn’t get too comfortable with this news.
It is a known fact that we are experiencing a Water Crisis in the Western Cape, but does this mean that restaurants should stop serving their patrons a free glass of water? Technically, and legally, the answer to that question is no. There are restaurants that sell still and/or sparkling bottled water so it is understandable that we should pay for that, but can the same be said about a glass of tap water?
Perhaps these restaurants are charging their patrons for drinking water as a ploy to avoid water wastage. Maybe they’re innocently trying to reduce their water consumption. Whatever the reason, law forbids it: according to Section 4.7 of the Liquor Act Norms and Standards, it is illegal for restaurants that hold a liquor license to refuse free drinking water to their patrons. Sure, we’ll pay for a bottle of some refreshing sparkling water or for a cool bottle of spring water fresh from the fridge, but tap water? Are we being made to pay for it just because it has a slice of lemon and is sipped with a straw to look all fancy? Should we bring our own water bottles with us into a restaurant just to avoid paying extra? In any case, if you’re ordering food or an alcoholic beverage at a restaurant, it is assumed that a glass of tap water should be worked into the price on the bill already.
The next time you enter a restaurant, ask your server if they serve free tap water and if they don’t, you can either a) take your business somewhere else, b) not order anything to drink, c) say “alright then” while you whip out your own water bottle, or d) strike up a friendly conversation wherein you discuss some better (and legal) ways in which their establishment can conserve water. The bottom line is, tap water should not be paid for in restaurants, it should be free.