Is it ok to order just tap water? Bar owner has her say

By Robert Mann contact

- Last updated on GMT

H2-NO: a bar owner claims that customers who order tap water with their food could drive pubs and restaurants out of business (image: Leesha Williams)
H2-NO: a bar owner claims that customers who order tap water with their food could drive pubs and restaurants out of business (image: Leesha Williams)
Tap water is a staple seen on many restaurant tables across the UK, with Britons enjoying the drink free of charge. However, one landlord has highlighted that people who order the cost-effective beverage could be affecting a businesses trade.

Sam Espensen, co-founder of Bristol Spirit in Redfield, Bristol, sparked a fierce debate online after she urged customers on Facebook to stop ordering free tap water with their meals.

A post on Wednesday 22 May – which has since been deleted – explained that missing out on drink sales meant she could not make enough money from diners.

Espensen said that her bar, which sells naturally-infused spirits as well as wines and beers, "cannot make a profit" when customers eat food from pop-ups without buying drinks.

She also revealed that she doesn't understand why so many customers come in to dine, but insist on sticking to tap water.

She vented: “If you come to Bristol Spirit and you only drink free tap water, we will not make enough money from your table to break even, let alone turn a profit.

"It feels like you are telling us you don’t value our business enough to buy a drink, which is the reason we exist."

Espensen was criticised for asking customers to be more aware of independent businesses, where she says drink sales make up a "hefty proportion" of overall trade.

Some jumped to her defence, however.

Since the backlash, Espensen has hit back at her critics and exclusively told The Morning Advertiser ​the reasoning behind her statement.

“My original Facebook where I had, in the words of Hugh Grant, 'a mini tanty' after a particularly bad week in terms of water only drinkers, has blown up to get worldwide coverage," she explained.

“We have over 50 soft drink options at Bristol Spirit, including many healthier mocktails and sugar free options.

“But we are still seeing a significant amount of just water drinkers, whether they are eating food or not."

She added that if people continue ordering tap water, it will affect the wider bar and pub trade – which she said is contending with enough already.

“The only thing I would like to add is that despite becoming the unwilling face of tap water, I think it has opened the conversation up," she concluded.

“Just like the no shows issue, the more of us who comment that we do suffer from too many free water drinkers, the more public awareness there will be.”

Related topics: Soft & Hot Drinks

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