Restaurants can’t deny ‘glass water’

According to the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976, any place that sells food has to provide drinking water for free.
Last Updated : 12 September 2023, 22:35 IST
Last Updated : 12 September 2023, 22:35 IST

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A few restaurants are refusing to serve ‘glass water’ to customers, insisting that they buy bottled water. Some provide it reluctantly.

According to the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976, any place that sells food has to provide drinking water for free, says Dr Balasundar, BBMP chief health officer.

“I haven’t received any complaint in all these years but two days ago, a person complained he was asked to purchase water at a mall. The mall did not have (free) drinking water,” he says.

Mukesh Tolani, head of the Bengaluru chapter of the National Restaurants Association of India, says serving free water to customers is not a mandate the association can enforce. “It’s an individual restaurant’s call. As an association, we can’t police restaurants,” he says.

Arbitrary call?

Simran (name changed) and her friends were given “tap water” after they refused to pay for packaged water at a bar and kitchen on Church Street last Friday.

“The waiter told us even the staff drink bottled water. Since he said he was serving us tap water and not RO water, we left,” she recalls.

Sharing her experience at a rooftop restaurant on Brigade Road in March, communications professional Neha Jha says, “My friend and her partner had to wait for at least 15 minutes and make multiple requests to get water after they refused to buy packaged water!”

Metrolife visited these addresses on Tuesday. In one case, a bottle of packaged water was kept on our table already. In the other, they got us bottled water the moment we asked for water. However, they readily served glass water when we requested it.

Theatre practitioner Anuradha Rao has been at the receiving end of bizarre things. “Once a waiter removed the seal of a bottle of water, poured the water into a jar, and served me water because I wanted glass water. Another time, when I demanded for the water the staff cooks with, I was told, ‘We cook with mineral water’,” she says.

‘Plastic waste’

Many diners Metrolife spoke to prefer glass water over bottled water because they don’t want to generate plastic waste.

A zero-waste practitioner, Ram Arora left a restaurant in Brookefield after they denied “regular RO water” to him, his wife and friends over a month ago.

The system design manager says, “I forgot to carry a water bottle that day… the manager came in to say they had a shortage of RO water even for cooking!”

Rakhi Anil and her colleagues from an NGO walked out of a popular eatery at HSR Layout. “Not only did the waiter put bottled water on our table but also paper cups. He refused to give us normal water. Since we work in the waste management space, we refuse disposables. We went to a Punjabi outlet nearby and they had free water and steel tumblers,” says the programme manager.

Covid effect?

The push for packaged water in restaurants is not new but seems to have increased since the Covid-19 outbreak, diners say. Anuradha claims she has been walking out of restaurants “60% of the time” nowadays because they try to sell her bottled water.

College student C Shekar doesn’t approve of restaurants prioritising packaged water in sly ways. “Last month, the minute I entered a restaurant in Majestic, I was handed bottled water. I was thirsty, so I drank, and they added it to my bill. The manager said he could have provided glass water, but customers have been avoiding glass water since the pandemic,” he says.

Sustainability practitioner Dhawal Mane had two such run-ins this past weekend. “When I objected to bottled water at a restaurant in Koramangala, the staff said ‘Keep it. We won’t bill you’. In the second instance, at Indiranagar, the staff gave us bottled water despite us asking for regular water. I didn’t check the bill in this case,” he said.

A few outlets don’t charge for bottled water, Mukesh pointed out.

What the rule says

In 2017, former BBMP commissioner N Manjunath Prasad had issued a circular mandating all multiplexes, restaurants, hotels and eateries to ensure access to free and pure drinking water on their premises. This came after social activist Sudha Katwa had filed a case against a
Yeshwanthpur outlet that told her to buy bottled drinking water. “Even today, restaurants serve bottled water first.Glass water is secondary, which they give on request,” she told Metrolife.

What can citizens do

Advocate Indra Dhanush says the Supreme Court and consumer commissions have issued multiple directives to eateries to provide free access to drinking water and toilets. Diners can approach the consumer courts or the legal metrology department. “About two years ago, a vegan client complained against a restaurant in Bengaluru after she was forced to buy overpriced bottled
water. The restaurant apologised and paid a nominal compensation,” he says.

Published 12 September 2023, 22:35 IST

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