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WATER...
What are your rights?




Q: Are you entitled to free cold water in clubs?

Some clubs only make hot water available from taps or sprays in the toilets. Others provide it in a container from the bar with a smile. What actually are you entitled to? I investigated.

My starting point was "Safer Clubbing" a guide produced by the Drug Prevention Advisory Service in 2002.

Regarding deaths from drugs at clubs it says:

"Approximately 80-100 people have died after taking ecstasy in the last ten years. The majority of these deaths have been due to acute heat stroke. In most cases the heat stroke has been caused by a combination of factors:

- Ecstasy causes body temperature to rise significantly
- Non-stop dancing increases this already elevated temperature
- Poor ventilation, over heated venues and over-crowding, increase temperature further
- Inadequate intake of water (or other non-alcoholic drinks) exacerbates dehydration and impairs the body's ability to cool itself

Taking alcohol or other drugs with ecstasy can further cause the body to overheat"


The document notes that "...the over consumption of water can cause serious problems. It is recommended that users aim to sip a pint of water per hour."

Most relevantly they then go on to say this:

"It is therefore imperative that there is free and unrestricted, but monitored, access to cold drinking water at all times. Licensing authorities should be aware that, in order to maximise bar profits, several owners and promoters have turned off water supplies, supplied only warm water or discouraged bar staff from supplying free cold water. The provision of free water is often a standard condition of a license where dance music is being played and any breach should be considered very seriously. (My emphasis)

Recommended best practice is:

- Provision of cold water in easy to access areas; jugs of water and ice or drinking fountains are good examples
- Large signs to advertise and locate where water can be accessed
- Availability of a large range of appropriately priced bottled water and soft drinks for purchase at the bar
- Staff detailed to walk around the dance floors with chilled water, offering it to those who look in need."


Though the above are recommendations and guidelines, they do carry weight with local authorities, and their licensing departments. In case you don't know it, all clubs (i.e. the venues - not the promoters) in the U.K. must obtain a license from their local authority, (in Birmingham it's Birmingham City Council), in order to allow dancing on the premises, (this is covered by an entertainments license), as well as another license if they want to serve alcohol. Such licenses will usually stipulate at what times and days such activities are permitted, and as "Safer Clubbing" mentions, most local authorities stipulate certain standard requirements.

This is the standard condition applied to all entertainments licenses granted for venues by Birmingham City Council:

"Drinking Water

43. Licensees should maintain a free supply of drinking water from a tap which is accessible to customers and, where it is not possible to provide a supply, then the free supply of drinking water should be provided in cups or glasses."


Whilst this does go some way to clarifying that

A: you should be able to obtain free drinking water in any club in Birmingham,

it doesn't adequately deal with the issue of warm water being provided, though it would seem reasonable in my opinion to argue that warm water is NOT drinking water. It turns out (on asking) that Birmingham City Council are due to re-examine their standard conditions and may well change the above to explicitly mention cold drinking water. However, any club not providing free cold drinking water is, in my view, acting contrary to the "Safer Clubbing" guidelines and this would be of interest to the licensing authority.

Should you wish to make a complaint about water provision for any licensed venue in Birmingham, then you can contact:

Licensing Section
Environmental and Consumer Services
Crystal Court,
Aston Cross Business Village,
50 Rocky Lane,
Aston
Birmingham
B6 5RQ

(Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 0900hrs - 1600hrs
Wednesday 1000hrs-1600hrs, Friday 0900 - 1530hrs)

Telephone: 0121 303 8222

E-mail:: licensing@birmingham.gov.uk

You can expect that the licensing section will treat your complaint confidentially, and will bring the problem to the attention of the license holder. Licenses usually come up for renewal annually. A license holder against whom a number of complaints have been received and who has failed to adhere to the conditions imposed on him is likely to face problems in getting his license renewed, especially if the problem persists after the licensing section have brought it to the licensee's attention. Any venue losing its entertainments license would effectively be closed, so formal complaints are likely to be taken very seriously by licensees.
 
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