A pub is being investigated by Boston Borough Council licensing department after staff allegedly tried to charge two cyclists for tap water. Hannah Spencer and her friend had bought lunch at the Witham Tavern in Boston on June 21 but were then told that there would be a charge for filling their water bottles.
Addressing the pub on Facebook, Spencer wrote:
“I’m the cyclist who had lunch with my friend at your pub yesterday. We cycled close to 150 miles that day and could have stopped anywhere but chose your cute looking tavern by the river.
“After paying for our food, we asked politely to have our water bottles filled. You told us there was a charge for this and that you charge £1.20 for each glass of tap water. Due to your minimum £10 card spend and the fact that we had already paid for food, it would have cost us £10 to have bottles filled with tap water.
“It was not only mean to refuse free water to two young, sunburnt cyclists: I have now found out this is also illegal under the licensing act. You have now been reported. Have a nice day.”
Speaking to road.cc, she added: “It seemed like the pub owner just hated cyclists because she had a bottle open and started to walk towards the tap but then said, ‘Oh, I'll have to charge you for this,’ just before she got there.”
Boston council licensing department has told Spencer that they are investigating the pub and that she should hear the outcome in the next few days.
Stung by her experience, Spencer also added a review to Trip Advisor, to which the owner responded:
“I am sorry you feel this way, unfortunately we are not breaking the law, you asked first to have your 2 large bottles filled and then your friend asked, my staff have to be paid to serve and the water is on a meter, I am sure there are lots of pubs that charge for large bottles of water. My staff was very pleasant and did say we sell bottles of water for £1.20 which is of course is far better than tap water. We hope you enjoyed your bike ride home.”
In response to that, Spencer told us: “We repeatedly said we wanted free tap water and they refused.”
The Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) Order 2010 provides that “the responsible person” – that is, the licensee, supervisor or a person authorised by them – “shall ensure that free tap water is provided on request to customers where it is reasonably available."
There is no stipulation in the legislation that the water must be consumed on the premises, nor does it exclude customers providing their own receptacles for it.
However, following a similar incident last October, a member of Dulwich Paragon said that police had sided with the pub owner.
Arthur Tye said that he and a group of fellow cyclists had bought a round of drinks and bar snacks but staff had refused to fill water bottles at the bar unless they spent £50 on food.
“Police said that they were within their rights to ask anybody they wished to leave their property at any time, and that they were under no obligation to provide us with tap water.”