Think back to the last time you were at a restaurant. Did your server set down a glass of water in front of you? Did he or she ask if you wanted water first? If you were in a New York City restaurant and your server gave you water you didn’t ask for, well, that’s illegal. At least until the repeal of a local regulation goes into effect this month.
Ah, days of yore! Such fun little laws we sometimes forget about that pop up to the top so we can giggle about them before we do away with them forever.
The New York Times points to a subdivision of Section 20-08 of Chapter 20 of Title 15 of the Rules of the City of New York Governing and Restricting the Use and Supply of Water that prohibits serving water in a restaurant unless a patron requests it.
But is anyone actually aware of such an ordinance? Probably not.
“I have a restaurant for 27 years, but I never knew that,” the owner of one Theater District restaurant. “But we always ask, ‘Would you like some good New York water or some mineral water?’”
The co-owner of a Staten Island pizzeria felt the same way. But it sounds like at his joint, no one was in danger of violating the law anyway.
“Oh, really? I never heard of that,” he said. “But we don’t serve it, because we want people to order beverages and wine. Otherwise, they’d just fill up on water.”
There’s got to be at least one legal mind out there, though, and the NYT found that in an owner of another Manhattan restaurant, who said the servers always ask first.
“Otherwise, it’s a waste. We have to pay for the water they use,” he said. “The less we use, the less we have to pay for. And even though New York City has the best water, bottled water is a selling point, and you can make a decent profit.”
Before former mayor Michael Bloomberg left office, his administration took to the law books and started scrapping such regulations, setting this one up for repeal unless there’s a drought emergency. The repeal takes effect later this month.
And of course, puns abound.
“We’re very happy that the administration is taking a glass-is-half-full attitude to reviewing old regulations,” said a spokesman for the New York State Restaurant Association. “It’s good for both the city and the industry to get them off the books.”
For Restaurants, an Arcane Water Rule Is Going Away [New York Times]