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Mar 6, 2009 07:41 AM

Selling Tap Water as Bottled Water.... [moved from Los Angeles board]

FYI... So the new trend in Los Angeles fine dining appears to be selling filtered tap water as spring water. Should this be legal... do restaurants have a moral responsibility to have a disclaimer.
Here is the link for the filter:

The bottles are meant to look exactly like VOSS, but come to the table unsealed. The restaurant usually charges the same price as San Pelligrino, Panna or Perrier, but obviously costs them a fraction of the price. Restaurants using this device include AOC, Enoteca Drago and Mozza.
I asked the manager at AOC about the charge for tap water and the charge was discretely removed from the bill.

I don't mind drinking filtered tap water, god knows I do at home, but the fact that these restaurants are going out of their way to make a buck on it, as well as to deceive their clientele is dishonest and reprehensible. Its bad enough we pay 8$ for a bottle of water, now we are being given tap water.

Attention Chowhounders: Buyer beware

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  1. I really think there's nothing wrong with this. Think about all the plastic and glass bottles that get thrown out every day at restaurants who sell sparkling and still water, and how much trash these systems cut down on. The restuarants pay for the Natura system, the filters, and the CO2 tanks that go in the system. There are one time costs, and then maintenance costs...yes, they're making a profit but it's benefiting you in the end too from an environmental perspective.

    FYI, I have a similar system at home for making sparkling water and I not only think the quality of the product is great -- it's freshly carbonated, and it hasn't been sitting in plastic bottles stored and transported in heat that might leech chemicals into the product -- but the amount of trash and recycling I've cut down on is significant. Yes, I also save money just like the restaurants, but that's just one minor benefit.

    Personally, I almost never buy bottled water at restaurants, and usually specify LA DWP or Tap when asked, to avoid confusion. If a restaurant offers you "filtered water" I recommend replying by saying you want tap water and you are unlikely to encounter a charge.

    For anybody interested in the Sodastream home carbonating machine, which I highly recommend, you can get your own by going to

    1. As a restaurant bookkeeper with a few clients using the Natura system I know that
      it costs them almost $300 per month to lease the machine.
      So, naturally, they have to charge extra for the water.

      I do, however, think it's wrong for you to be brought bottled water (which you are charged
      for) when you merely order "water".

      Lastly, I feel the need to add that I have started out a meal with the Natura water and
      had the busser inadvertently refill my glass with tap water and, let me tell you ,
      the difference in taste in very noticeable.

      1. I know where you're coming from in your feelings and intent, but the vast majority of spring water that is on the market is processed in a very similar fashion - just on a larger scale.

        We have filtered water at home, and when we taste it side-by-side with various spring waters, we prefer it over most. Since the majority of the bottled waters come in plastic, one can often pick up on the faint odor. We obviously cannot duplicate the balance of minerals or feel it worth the trouble to monitor and alter the Ph.

        I think this is a mindset issue. A restaurant takes basic ingredients, elements, etc., and changes them in ways that make them more appealing to the diner. If they are able to achieve this with water that has gone through some sort of treatment to improve the quality and taste, and if they feel that they can offer it at a price, the market will eventually decide whether it's worth it. Just the same, I appreciate your heads-up on the matter.

        8 Replies
        1. re: bulavinaka

          Point of correction.

          This is a large carbon filter. Dasani and Aquafina used advanced RO technology.

          1. re: jfood

            I get it - my point is the issue of filtration. RO is typically used by such manufacturers to extract everything out of H2O to establish a baseline, then minerals are added back in to get a specific taste and Ph.

            1. re: bulavinaka

              yup both use the same process, then one adds back minerals.

              1. re: jfood

                And of course, RO is extremely wasteful. The amount of reject water is multiples of the end product. The only time I had and used an RO was when I kept a saltwater reef tank decades ago. Now that I've quit that hobby because of its impact on resources, etc., I'm perfectly happy with a three-stage filter for home use.

                1. re: bulavinaka

                  The RO's jfood worked on took sea water to turn into potable, no waste.

                  He is also luck to have really good well water at casa jfood.

                  1. re: jfood

                    Technology marches on - it used to be about 15 gallons of waste water for one gallon of pure... jfood deserves an extra treat!

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      jfood hopes his pals out in socal get that desal project up and running so more water is available.

                      1. re: jfood

                        California tends to be forward-thinking but backwards-doing. Folks who live immediately along the coast tend to be very hostile toward projects like this as well - they'd rather die of thirst. Environmental groups have voiced their concerns on desal as well. And with a polarized legislature, fuggetaboutit. We'll just have to learn to drink smog until we get the next substantial snowmelt...

        2. While I agree that marketing it as "spring water" is a bunch of crap that should not be tolerated, onsite filtration is a positive trend that cuts down on plastic waste and transportation. It's unfortunate that some places are overcharging for it, but it's not always the case. Some restaurants don't charge for it and some charge less than they do/did for branded water.

          1. this is a giant carbon filter. that's probably a good thing.

            The UV aspect is total crap. It removes E-Coli? What the heck is e-coli doing in the water from the tap at a restaurant in the first place. What is LA bringing in water from Sub-Sahara?