‘Please stop ordering just TAP WATER’: Bristol bar owner’s fury at customers

‘Please stop ordering just TAP WATER’: Bristol bar owner’s fury at customers who don’t ‘respect her business enough’ to pay for their drinks

  • Sam Espensen, who runs Bristol Spirit in Redfield sparked a fierce online debate 
  • ‘Sorry to sound harsh but it REALLY affects our business,’ the owner wrote online 
  • Ms Espensen’s comments led to both positive and negative responses online 

A bar owner has begged customers not to order free tap water with their meals – because they ‘cannot survive as a business’ on income from food alone.

Sam Espensen, who runs Bristol Spirit in Redfield, Bristol, sparked a fierce online debate about the financial difficulties businesses face.

Ms Espensen wrote on Twitter: ‘If you just ask for tap water, it feels like you are telling us you don’t value our business enough to buy a drink, which is the reason we exist.

‘If you come to Bristol Spirit and you only drink free tap water – we will not make enough money from your table to break even, let alone turn a profit.

Sam Espensen, runs Bristol Spirit in Redfield, Bristol, and says it’s a bar, not just a restaurant 

‘Sorry to sound harsh but it REALLY affects our business – we have 26 covers in a sitting, and in the last week we’ve had at least 14 people just drink water.

‘Over a month that is a significant amount of income – especially in the Summer months and in hot weather when trade drops off.

‘This is because we have food pop-ups, so the majority of the money from the food goes to them – and rightly so.

‘We understand that you may not have a lot of money, but we cannot survive as a business on money from you just eating.

‘We are a bar not a restaurant. If you don’t want to drink alcohol, we have an excellent range of low sugar mocktails and non alcoholic alternatives.

‘Our overheads are a fixed cost, as are the wages. We pay staff properly. And we’re still paying off all the work we did to make Bristol Spirit the wonderful place it is.

Sam Espensen, who runs Bristol Spirit in Redfield, Bristol, sparked a fierce online debate

Sam Espensen, who runs Bristol Spirit in Redfield, Bristol, sparked a fierce online debate

‘So if you visit us, and are enjoying the atmosphere, the art, the wonderful staff, the lovely furniture, the well designed menus with a huge array of choice, the amazing food and of course our spotless and lovely kitchen that our chefs rave about – remember all of those things cost significant money to create.

‘The space was pretty horrible when we bought it, and the kitchen was a cesspit.

‘Peace out – I am off to make a load of PG Sips – because we have sold out – on a happier note!’

And while some responses praised Ms Espensen for letting people know they needed to respect her business – others were not so keen.  

Louise Trimby wrote: ‘I rarely drink alcohol nowadays but if I go to Bristol Spirit I am going to drink the brilliant booze on offer (as well as enjoy a lovely bar and vibe) it’d be foolish not to.’

Hannah Fowler wrote: ‘Brilliant post!!! Respectfully honest and genuine.’

Dave Martin suggested she add a surcharge to the bill of those who order tap water.

He wrote: ‘Surely this is a business model? If diners are not buying drinks either add a surcharge or ask for a cut of the food takings.

‘Or just do fewer food pop-ups and bring in people another way. You can only support the food pop-ups if you have a sustainable business.’

But others were less polite about their aversion to Ms Espensen’s methods of reaching out to customers. 

The owner said that she was forced to block somebody after he told her to ‘up my prices rather than begging on Facebook’. 

Another post reminded her that sometimes groups have a designated driver who cannot buy an alcoholic drink.

The comment said: ‘So charge for the glass! I drink tap water when I’m driving. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to go somewhere just because I don’t want to have bottled water? 

‘You moan that I cost you money but if I wasn’t driving then you would lose the custom of three other people who are drinking.’  

She later deleted the original social media post. 

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