In the province of Québec, are restaurants legally required to provide free potable water upon request?

If so, what is the name/article of this law?

  • 1
    I'm sad that humans need laws to force them to give water for someone who is thirsty.. these things should be coded in our genes.. just saying.
    – Nean Der Thal
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 2:10
  • 2
    @NeanDerThal Well, there's no law that says a restaurant must give me food if I'm hungry. And it's not like we're talking about people who are likely to be severely dehydrated, here. Don't get me wrong -- I definitely dislike it when restaurants refuse to provide me with free tap water, but I'm not seeing a moral imperative on them to do so. Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 13:51
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby In the UK, for example, it's mandatory for anywhere that serves alcohol to provide free potable water upon request. It's to allow people to space their drinks out without having to buy expensive bottled water.
    – richardb
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 17:26
  • @richardb I know, but that's a legal requirement, not a moral one. If somebody needs water for medical reasons, I would argue that there is a moral obligation to give it to them. But I see no moral obligation whatsoever to help somebody drink more alcohol. It makes good business sense, but that's yet another different thing. As I said, I'm all for people giving out free water, but Nean Der Thal seemed to be saying that it's some kind of moral obligation, and that's a claim I'd like to see evidence for. Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 19:21
  • Is this a law anywhere? Any random guy can come off the street and demand water from a business. That would be a very weird and unpopular law.
    – Pete B.
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 20:18

3 Answers 3



There are plenty of Quebecois laws covering what you must have water for (food prep, bathrooms, etc) and that if you are using the water in any fashion that it might come in contact with a human mouth (i.e. food preparation, etc) it must be drinking water (as defined in the document I linked), but no such laws requiring free distribution of drinking water on request by restaurants.

It's worth noting, I suppose, that tap water must be provided by restaurants in their bathrooms for the washing of hands and that said water must be of drinking water quality, but they are not required to offer it in a glass, free of charge.

Anecdotally, I will also note that there are laws in several other Canadian jurisdictions that DO require free drinking water on request, but those laws also do not stipulate the glass must be provided for free.

  • 3
    A distinction without a difference, since then the customer would bring in his own glass, and other health codes will forbid them taking into the kitchen a customer provided container. Also toonzone.net/forums/threads/found-it-bloom-county-1981.4200981 (large strip, most of the way down the page) Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 23:02
  • 3
    @corsiKa There could very well be a law requiring restaurants to offer customer bathrooms. The Czech Republic has such a law, for example (AFAIK). Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 9:23
  • 11
    I understand water for bathrooms... But what you mean must have water for eggs?
    – Juan Carlos Oropeza
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 14:39
  • 2
    I have to second Juan's question-- why on earth would they be required to give water to customers with eggs?
    – senschen
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 19:52
  • 12
    Is "eggs, bathrooms, etc." an autocorrect of "e.g., bathrooms, etc."? Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 20:28

I've lived in Quebec my entire life and I can tell you for sure that any restaurant will give you water for free as long as you are buying something else.

As for when you are in a bar, you will have to ask and hope for the best, sometimes they can give you free water, sometimes they're not allowed to, but a nice smile might still get you a free glass, especially if you're foreign and polite and make the effort to try to ask in french (Est-ce que je pourrais avoir un verre d'eau s'il-vous-plaît?).

On that same topic, I don't know the exact law, but I'm fairly certain that a few years ago we passed a law that allows you to bring your own water pretty much anywhere, even if they sell water. The reason behind this is that some people need access to water for medical purposes, and to avoid discriminating anybody they allowed everyone to carry their own water.

I'm sure somebody could complete my answer with an actual law article.

  • 3
    I've never encountered a restaurant in the US or Canada that wouldn't give free water with purchase. I know from working fast food we would give water cups even without a purchase. And more often than not they put sprite in it because it looked like water from a distance. :p But with the profit margins fast food makes, giving people a reason to come through the door is worth it - they'll eventually buy something...
    – corsiKa
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 6:55
  • @corsiKa That's true. And a good bit of the time, the cashier recommends putting something other than water in the cup.
    – jpaugh
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 20:25

I'd be surprised if it was.

In what context ?

You walk in a restaurant and only ask for a free glass of water ? Or when you have ordered your food and want water instead of alcohol ?

I've never been to a restaurant where they refuse to give me a glass of water upon request after ordering the food.

Heck, that's probably the first thing they do most of the time (with some exceptions)

If they want to charge you for the plain water, I assume it should be written on a menu somewhere (I'd check the "Loi de la protection du consommateur")

article 223

  1. Un commerçant doit indiquer clairement et lisiblement sur chaque bien offert en vente dans son établissement ou, dans le cas d’un bien emballé, sur son emballage, le prix de vente de ce bien, sous réserve de ce qui est prévu par règlement.

Translated via Google Translate:

  1. A merchant must clearly and legibly indicate on each property offered for sale in his establishment or, in the case of a well-packaged item, on its packaging, the selling price of that property, subject to the provisions of the by-law.

In short a seller (restaurant) must clearly indicate the price of an item ...

  • 17
    In many European countries it is common for a restaurant to not offer tap water on request (even with the purchase of food). If you request something to drink they will refer you to their drink menu which often includes bottled water as a purchasable menu item.
    – Jacob Horbulyk
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 20:28
  • 9
    We had a question about that very thing, IIRC. It's very much a thing in Germany, and very much NOT a thing in France. Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 23:06
  • 10
    @Harper in France, in restaurants, free bread and drinking water are mandated by law. The waiter might try to interest you in bottled water which is not free.
    – Antzi
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 0:34
  • @Harper The question about getting water for free in Germany and France is this one: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/98221/…. It confirms what you said: in France it isn't a problem, in Germany it is.
    – Fabio Turati
    Commented Nov 11, 2017 at 3:39

You must log in to answer this question.