Restaurant Law Blog

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Little Known New York City Restaurant Law Repealed

Did you know that a majority of New York City restaurants break the law every time a patron walks through their doors?

Well, neither did many city restaurateurs.

Until now, it was illegal for restaurant staff to automatically serve customers water.

Since at least as far back at 1991, eateries in the city of New York have been legally required to ask every one of their customers if they would like water before a glass is poured for them. This regulation was enacted when the city was facing a drought emergency in the early nineties, but has barely been enforced since then.

More than 10 years after the legislation was enacted, in 2002, the city experienced another drought emergency and the Department of Environmental Protection issued warnings to 14 restaurants.  

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration repealed the regulation during his final days in office. As of 30 days from Jan. 23, when the final rule was published in the city record, it will be perfectly legal for restaurant staff to serve water to patrons whether or not they ask for it. However, this repeal does not mean that restaurants are legally obligated to pour water for every patron.

Numerous New York City restaurant owners were quoted as saying  they weren't even aware of the longtime law. Some noted they usually ask customers if they would prefer tap water (at no charge) or mineral water. Despite all of the chatter surrounding the little known recently repealed law, restaurateurs have always had a financial incentive to sell soda and alcoholic drinks rather than water.

The installation of more accurate water metering in the last decade allows the city to keep a closer eye on water consumption. Energy and conservation efforts, such as more efficient toilets and timers on spray showers in parks have led to a significant decrease in the number of gallons of water New York City consumes each day. In the mid-1970s the city's consumption reached its peak at 1.5 billion gallons per day, and currently the city barely consumes 1 billion gallons. The city's consumption hasn't been this low since the 1960s, when the it was experiencing a drought and the population was substantially smaller.

If you have questions about your restaurant’s compliance with these recent changes, contact the New York City office of the DiPasquale Law Group for a free consultation at 646-383-4607.

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