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Drinking water in licensed premises

Is the law crystal clear?

You may have read in the news recently where a customer was told to pay £1 or leave after asking for tap water to take tablets. This has helped to highlight the ongoing confusion over free water on licensed premises.

To remove any confusion over this issue, it is a mandatory condition on every premises license that free drinking water is provided on request to customers, where reasonably available. In layman’s terms, this means that all licensed premises are legally obligated to supply water for free to customers that ask for it.

The 3 main problems associated with this are:

  • The interpretation of the word ‘customer’. Is someone who asks for water and doesn’t actually buy anything classed as a customer? And if they aren’t classed as a customer do you have the right to refuse them free water?
  • What is classed as reasonably available? This is an ambiguous term and could be interpreted in many ways. For example, if you don’t have access to tap water for whatever reason, do you then have to supply bottled water for free?
  • The final problem revolves around the fact that any licensed premises has the right to refuse to serve anybody. Therefore, it could be implied that they have every right to refuse to serve someone who has only asked for tap water.

Something else to remember is that landlords make more money from wet sales. Therefore, supplying free tap water could be affecting business trade.

This certainly appears to be an area that needs clearing up and maybe further provisions will be introduced in the future that help to do just that. The overriding message to remember is that if you serve alcohol, the law states that you have to provide free drinking water.

To read the article related to this click here

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