Free water mandatory
It is mandatory to have free drinking water available to patrons at all times liquor is sold or supplied in licensed venues.
This law was introduced in 2004 following a number of complaints from patrons who were denied access to tap water to take medication, or to relieve dehydration. In a number of cases only bottled water was available and the pricing structure did not conform with the 'reasonable charge' guidelines previously approved by the Minister for Gaming and Racing.
Providing drinking water is an essential responsible service of alcohol measure. Water can help to slow down alcohol consumption (thereby avoiding intoxication), and is important in preventing dehydration - especially in dance and nightclub style venues.
It is a condition of a liquor licence and certificate of registration that, at all times liquor is sold or supplied on the premises, drinking water must be available free to patrons. It must be sold or supplied at or near liquor service points, or by the same means of service by which liquor is supplied (such as by waiter service). Penalties range from an official reprimand, suspension or cancellation of a licence or certificate of registration, and a maximum court penalty of $22,000.
It is up to venues to decide what type of free drinking water is provided. For example you may choose to provide water by the glass or from a jug at bar service areas. Alternatively you may choose to have a drinking water dispenser nearby their bar area for patrons to serve themselves.
In the case of fine-dining restaurants, it is customary to have packaged water available for sale – such as imported bottled water. This is permitted so long as free drinking water is also available at all times. Additionally, some patrons may prefer to drink filtered bottled water. Again, venues will comply with these new requirements so long as free drinking water is also available to patrons.
These laws do not apply to off-licences - such as liquor stores and wholesale businesses.