Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Soon you'll have to request water at a Tampa Bay restaurant

Water, water, everywhere — but only if they ask.

That's the new policy for Tampa Bay eateries, says the board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which voted this week to ask restaurant owners to only serve guests water on request.

The policy wouldn't take effect for a couple weeks, but as the area enters a dry spell, local restaurateurs disagree on what effect the drought-driven measure will have on business. Some say it could rock the boat of consumer-expected service. Other say it's a wash.

"It's kind of like a staple. You go to a restaurant and you automatically get water," said Paul Bonanno, the head chef of Italian restaurant Bernini of Ybor. "It's just part of good service."

Bonanno said he and others at his restaurant had heard rumors of the changes. His take? Good for business, bad for consumers.

"It will force people to spend more money on drinks, and with what's going on right now that's kind of a bad thing," he said. "Seriously, they're cutting down on water now? What's next?"

Other local managers said the water policy would bring its own benefits.

"As a guest, if you want water you'll get water, so that won't change," said Tom Heyder, the kitchen manager of Tampa tropical restaurant Bahama Breeze. "In reality I think it's a good thing. It helps to reduce waste and reduces a step from the service standpoint."

Carson Kohlmetz, the general manager of a Village Inn in Carrollwood, said his restaurant could experience a boom in other beverages.

"We would rather sell you a coffee or orange juice than a water," Kohlmetz said with a laugh.

Katherine Hill, the manager of the Hooters restaurant on Hillsborough Avenue, said the new rule won't change much. Beer and bottled water are big sellers already.

"We're a full liquor bar. We have beer. That's generally what people come in here for," she said.

Many restaurants said the notion of serving water only upon request is already standard practice.

"For years we'd automatically put water and lemon in front of people, but so many people don't use it," said Linda James, a dining room manager at Fourth Street Shrimp Store in St. Petersburg. "It just got to be a common sense thing."

James, who said employees stopped the longtime practice several months ago, said giving out only requested water has cut down on waste and made more sense from a business standpoint.

"We just realized it was a good idea," she said. "Just one of the little things you can do to cut costs."

Robyn Felix, spokeswoman for the water management district, said the agency launched a voluntary conservation program for restaurants last May.

The program, which primarily encourages restaurants to only serve requested water, also suggests restaurants replace spray valves and install low volume faucets and toilets.

About 100 restaurants are already enrolled. Restaurants get free materials to educate their employees and display to customers.

It is unclear exactly how much water will be saved if all restaurants abide by the new rules, which will be in place until June 30.

But for every glass of water taken to a table, two are used to wash out the dish later.

"Are we going to save a billion gallons? Probably not," Felix said. "But it's also a great educational tool."

Drew Harwell can be reached at or (813) 226-3386.

Soon you'll have to request water at a Tampa Bay restaurant 02/25/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 9:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning takes defenseman Cal Foote with top pick in draft

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said his son Cal lived in the locker room.

    Cal Foote, second from left, is welcomed to the Lightning by GM Steve Yzerman, far left.
  2. It's Rays' turn to pound Orioles pitching (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG - Ah, the fantastic four.

    The Rays smashed the reeling Orioles 15-5 on Friday, scoring a season-high in runs, to climb four games above .500 for the first time since July 1, 2015.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria scores on a triple by Logan Morrison during the first inning against the Orioles.
  3. Lightning picks defenseman Cal Foote


    Cal Foote is the son of former Avs defenseman Adam Foote.
  4. Kids today: They don't work summer jobs the way they used to


    WASHINGTON — It was at Oregon's Timberline Lodge, later known as a setting in the horror movie The Shining, where Patrick Doyle earned his first real paycheck.

    Teens Ben Testa, from left, Hannah Waring and Abby McDonough, and Wegmeyer Farms owner Tyler Wegmeyer walk the strawberry rows at the Hamilton, Va., farm in late May.
  5. Jeb Bush back in the hunt for the Marlins, now opposing Derek Jeter


    Associated Press:

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has switched sides in pursuit of the Miami Marlins, and he’s trying to beat out former teammate Derek Jeter.