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‘We exist to sell drinks’: Bar owner defends criticism of tap water-only drinkers | UK News

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A bar owner criticised for saying too people were only ordering tap water with their food has defended her comments, saying it can put a big strain on businesses.

Sam Espensen, who owns Bristol Spirit, tweeted last week that missing out on drink sales meant she could not make enough money from diners “to break even, let alone turn a profit”.

“Sorry to sound harsh but it REALLY affects our business – we have 26 covers in a sitting, and in the last week we’ve had at least 14 people just drink tap water”.

She added: “We cannot survive as a business on money from you just eating.”

After a backlash from some social media users, Ms Espensen has told Sky News that she automatically puts free tap water on tables – a legal requirement – but they had “massive overheads” to cover.

Sam Espensen
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Sam Espensen says other businesses had been in touch to discuss the issue

She suggested customers at least stump up for a soft drink.

“We exist to sell drinks – you don’t necessarily need to buy alcohol,” said the owner of the Bristol ‘bar and kitchen’.

“It’s a growing thing that more and more people are drinking tap water – which is fantastic and absolutely right and good.

“But if too many people are just coming into a bar and having free tap water and not purchasing a drink, you are affecting that business’s bottom line.”

Ms Espensen said that if customers were not paying for any kind of drink with their food, then the lost revenue soon mounts up.

“If 10% of those people are only drinking tap water and you extrapolate that over a year, it’s actually quite a significant impact on a business like ours,” she said.

The bar and kitchen' provide free water with meals but would like people to at least buy a soft drink
Image:
The bar provides free water with meals but would like people to at least buy a soft drink

She said people sticking to water because they think soft drinks are a “rip off” need to realise businesses have to make a profit “otherwise there’s no point being open”.

“There’s been a lot of people going ‘I don’t want to pay £2.50 for a soft drink in a bar’,” said Ms Espensen.

“You have to go ‘well, hang on a minute’, when you’re in a bar buying a bottle of wine people have accepted the fact that there is a mark-up on that bottle, that they can get it cheaper in the shops.

“So it’s the same thing for a soft drink.”

She said there had been “a lot of fairly aggressive conversations” online after her original tweet on 22 May, but that she had been “inundated” with support from similar businesses.

The bar owner added: “A lot of people want to drink healthier, less sugary drinks. I totally agree with that.

“We’re a refill station, which means people can come and fill up their water bottles for free.

“We support all of that stuff, but the reality is we do have massive overheads. We also pay our staff fairly…

“What I would really like people to do is come in and go ‘wow, look at this beautiful bar, look at this fantastic staff, look at this table service I’m not paying for’ – the thought and care we’ve put into our beautiful menus – and then choose to actually buy a drink from it. “

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