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Free Tap Water in Restaurants [moved from California board]

Had an interesting experience at Pelly's Fish Restaurant in Carlsbad yesterday. I asked for a glass of tap water and was told by the cashier that they didn't offer water from the tap, but that I could buy it. I thought there was a law that required restaurants to offer tap water. I mean, they clean their dishes with it. I'm not a cheapy, I just don't mind drinking filtered water sometimes and that's what I wanted with my lunch.
Does anyone know if reestaurants are obligated to offer water? When I looked around I saw lots of bottled water at tables.

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  1. I'm pretty sure they have to furnish water if you ask. Even Micky D's and Colonel Sanders will provide a free cup, and you know they wouldn't if they didn't have to. If you had asked for the manager, I'm sure he or she would've set the cashier straight.
    . . . jim strain

    1. That you could pay for a glass of tap water?

      1. They are, I would think, free to do this. I thought this was sometimes the practice in drought-stricken areas under water restrictions (washing water can be recycled, IIRC). That said, it is not the practice even in my area with the most expensive water in the country - Boston (the water is abundant and clean - thanks to the lovely Quabbin Reservoir - but very expensive because we are paying for the cleanup of Boston harbor).

        More to the point, however, you are free to get up and leave. I certainly would, without hesitation.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          I had a similar experience when asking for tap water at Il Panino in the North End. No tap water, but they were more than happy to tack on $5 for the bottle of water. At least I was told up front. On the other hand the last time I was at Strega they just poured the bottled water without asking and tacked on the $5. I've known other people to complain about the water trick at Strega's but it had never happened to me there. Funny thing is at the end of the meal they give you a complimentary glass of Strega. Go Figure?!

          1. re: Pegmeister

            I've found the North End in Boston (like some other touristy areas worldwide) is a place where you have to watch your proverbial P's and Q's very closely to avoid having tricks pulled on you. This kind of thing regarding water is only one such scam I've had North End restaurants try to pull on me. Another common one is plopping a dinner menu in front of you at lunch time and not telling you that's what it is -- when I've confronted such places about it, they'll say they only have one menu all day or that they don't provide lunch menus on whatever day you've come by (especially happens on Saturdays). Besides the places you mentioned, Pegmeister, I've run into such shenanigans at Massimino's, L'Osteria, Dolce Vita, and (worst of all) Joe Tecce's -- which not only pulled the no-lunch menu thing on a weekday noontime but tried to charge me the dinner price after I caught them on it when the bill came.

          2. re: Karl S

            When we are under water restrictions due to drought, places won't just place a glass of water in front of you without asking. However, if you do ask for a glass of tap water, they'll bring it to you.

            I've honestly never heard of a place not offering tap water. I must lead a sheltered life.

          3. Restaurants are not obligated to provide you anything ... for free.

            I've known restaurants to charge for utensils. Yes, those things that are, many times, required to actually eat the food that the restaurant serves and that you have paid for.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              Charging for utensils? They do that, I'm keeping 'em!

              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                You mean you don't already keep'em? How else am I going to build up my silverware collection? ; )

            2. If you otherwise like the restaurant you might try dropping a line to the managers letting them know that, not only is their policy a deterrent to you personally enjoying a meal there, it is also not earth friendly...see discussion in the thread below:

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/394232