Can an ice cream / "fast food" shop, that purports not to be a restaurant, decline to serve fresh drinking water free of charge when asked for by a customer?

  • 2
    According to this BBC article from 2017, "Unlicensed premises in the UK do not have to legally supply free drinking water." Aug 12, 2022 at 15:23

1 Answer 1


In England and Wales and Scotland, 'licensed premises', i.e. premises authorised to serve alcohol, are obliged to provide free drinking water to customers on request. Unlicensed premises are not obliged to provide drinking water.

In England and Wales, all licensed premises "must ensure that free potable water is provided on request to customers where it is reasonably available". https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2014/9780111116906/schedule?view=plain

In Scotland, all licensed premises are obliged to provide "tap water fit for drinking" free to customers on request. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2005/16/schedule/4/paragraph/8/2005-12-21?view=plain

In Northern Ireland there is no law providing for giving customers free water on request.

Schools in Great Britain (i.e. not Northern Ireland) are obliged to supply free drinking water.

England https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2012/1943/made

Scotland https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2020/153/regulation/7/made

Wales https://www.legislation.gov.uk/mwa/2009/3/section/5

All UK workplaces must provide workers an "adequate supply of wholesome drinking water". https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1992/3004/regulation/22/made

  • Note that a premises license is also required for premises providing "regulated entertainment" and "late night refreshment". It is also required for selling alcohol for consumption off the premises, so for example a supermarket requires such a licesne. In practice I think all such premises are required to provide free water, but I've never seen it on offer at a supermarket.
    – Rodney
    Aug 13, 2022 at 9:50

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