Do you pay for water at a restaurant or bar? The lawyer answers – Italian cuisine reinvented by Gordon Ramsay

La Cucina Italiana

Do you pay for water at the restaurant or bar? Except for bottled water, if it’s microfiltered or tap water, or just a glass, does it cost anything? Think, for starters, of the glass of water that accompanies the coffee at the counter. Different countries have different customs, it seems, also because not all bars serve water with coffee. Among those who do, there areis who applies a symbolic surcharge (it happens rarely, but it happens), then there are those who always serve it whenever you order an espresso, whether at the counter or at the table, without charging additional costs. Who is right?

Do you have to pay for the water that accompanies the coffee?

In short, do you pay for water at the restaurant or at the bar? «As far as bars are concerned, that glass of water that accompanies the espresso is a real form of courtesywidespread only in our country. If everyone does it their own way it is because there is no legal rule: Each business is free to decide whether to charge or not“, says the lawyer Alessandro Presicce, president of the Lecce section of Adoc (Association for the Defense and Orientation of Consumers). «What matters, for all drinks and foods offered by public establishments, and therefore also restaurants as well as bars, is that the cost is indicated on the menu, specifies the expert.

Can a bar force you to buy a bottle of water while refusing to give you a glass?

The issue of “water at the bar” is broader, however.and in reality it is independent of coffee. It sometimes happens that some bars do not serve water in glasses but only in bottles and the examples, although we trust that they are exceptions to the rule, are there. «Even in this case the public establishment is free to act as it deems fit because there is no legal provision regarding this matter: serving water in a glass as already mentioned remains a courtesy that the bar can decide or not to do. The moment it puts the cost of its products in black and white on the menu, it does not break any rules”, continues the lawyer Presicce.

Is there a limit to the cost of water?

«There is no difference between bottled, tap or microfiltered water: it is all left to the free marketand therefore customers are free to choose whether and what to buy, even if the prices are sometimes exaggerated”. Because – and this is certainly another exception – It also happens that water is charged at a high price, especially in the height of summer in tourist locations. The reason is simple, always the same: «There are no longer regulated prices, not even for water, specifies Alessandro Presicce.

Do you have to pay for tap water in restaurants?

And the tap water at the restaurant: “It must be paid if the restaurant decides to make us pay for it, and the important thing is that it always indicates the cost on the menu,” repeats Presicce. Of course, managers have to pay costs, even for tap or microfiltered water, which also requires a specific system and maintenance. But do these costs justify the prices we customers have to pay?

The hope is that something will change also because the European Union has expressly asked the member states to introduce ad hoc measures: the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation just approved by the European Commission calls for the implementation of policies that encourage public establishments, canteens and catering to serve tap or microfiltered water at a minimum price or for free in reusable containers. Of course, it is a much broader area than the one we started from, but it is a starting point for improvement anyway: if we consumers together with managers learned not to waste resources, we would all gain financially as well. In the meantime, the water that accompanies the coffee at the bar can still be an excellent exercise, as lawyer Presicce points out «Ask the bartender that the glass is made of glass: When the water that accompanies the coffee is served in disposable cups it is also a huge waste of resources.”

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