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
- 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:
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:
Environmental and Consumer Services
Aston Cross Business Village,
50 Rocky Lane,
(Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 0900hrs - 1600hrs
Wednesday 1000hrs-1600hrs, Friday 0900 - 1530hrs)
Telephone: 0121 303 8222
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.