Cape Town restaurants, which are licensed to serve alcohol, are breaking the law if they refuse to serve free tap water to patrons.

According to the country’s Liquor Act, 2003 – free water, even if it is from a tap, must be provided by on-consumption liquor outlets. Therefore, it is illegal to refuse to serve tap water.

However, several patrons have reported a disturbing trend among restaurants in Cape Town, who refuse to serve tap water but offer bottled water for sale instead.

One patron claimed he was charged R35 for a 250ml bottle of water at a restaurant at Eden on the Bay shopping centre in Bloubergstrand.

The revelations on CapeTalk radio and social media, sparked concern that some establishments are breaking the law and exploiting the drought to overcharge customers. The station asked, have peoples’ opinions on water changed, and are they now prepared to pay for tap water when they eat out?

Cape Town Etc spoke to a few popular restaurants in the city, and most said they don’t charge for tap water. The retail price of 500ml of bottle water ranges from R4,50 to R10, depending on the brand, and some restaurants charge around R15 – R20 per bottle.

A fast food chain store manager on the V&A Waterfront, who didn’t want to be named, said: “We don’t charge our customers for tap water if they request it. It’s not a problem.”

Jeff Rosenberg, chairperson at Fedhasa Cape, has advised hotels and restaurants not to take advantage of the water crisis, but rather do things to support the initiatives. He, however, couldn’t say whether it was legal or not for restaurants to charge for tap water.

“We at Fedhasa don’t want the industry to take advantage of the situation in any way. I think the big thing is that we all support the crisis and support the initiatives going up,” Rosenberg told Capetalk.

However, some diners have reported being denied tap water by restaurants in the city, and told purchase bottled water.

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Deborah-Ann Lewis, a manager at Primi Piatti in Seapoint was surprised that some restaurants were charging for tap water. “There should be a law against that. That’s ridiculous. I’ve never heard of such a thing,” she said. “I mean it’s coming out of a tap. Why would anyone charge for that?”

There were concerns that the drought would discourage tourists from visiting the province this holiday season, and although there are no official figures yet, Cape Town businesses have felt the pinch.

“Tourism has not been at its best this season, which helped us manage our water consumption better. But it’s sad to see whats happening because of the drought, especially in the retail industry. We smile and keep going on, but this year was not like last year in terms of visitors,” Lewis added.

Rosenberg agrees. “It has been a lot quieter than the previous. There’s no doubt about that, but the message to tourists is ‘don’t change your itinerary. Come to Cape Town. Yes, you will be allowed to adapt your water usage during the course of your stay, but don’t let it influence whether you should come or not.”

Rosenberg pointed out that the hospitality industry is responsible for only 3,4% of water consumption in the city. “We’ve got to get things into perspective, whereas people in the so-called leafy suburbs at responsible for up to 65%. We should all get on board and support the process as much as possible.”


Picture: Pixabay & Facebook

Article written by

Nidha Narrandes

Nidha Narrandes is a food-obsessed travel addict with 21 years of journalism experience. Her motto - Travel. Eat. Repeat. She is happiest on a road to nowhere without a plan. A masterchef at home, she can't do without chilli - because chilli makes the world a tastier place.