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Row as Vienna restaurants try to charge for tap water.

Austrians angry at fee to quench thirst.

A summer row has heated up in Vienna, Austria after restaurateurs announced they plan to start charging for something European diners widely take for granted as being free -- tap water.

Glugging delicious tap water, fed by green-hilled Alpine springs, is seen as a Vienna birthright - and very much part of the whole experience of lounging in centuries-old cafes or munching on top nosh in one Europe's most sophisticated capitals.

Now it looks like tap will only be available with a compulsory tip -- but many, however, are determined to resist.

To charge for water would "be absolutely outrageous as far as I'm concerned," says Marinko Medic, a member of the public, while another, Doris Roitner, adds that the idea is "unacceptable."

Even Caroline Wehner, a waitress, says a free glass of the wet stuff with an order should be "part of good service in Vienna."

Asked recently about paying for tap water at city eateries, more than two-thirds of the 3,096 surveyed by the daily Kurier newspaper rejected the idea.

However Bernt Querfeld, who comes from a Vienna cafe dynasty, is not impressed - saying guests do not realise the extra costs and work that serving free glasses of H2O generate.

For now, payment is voluntary, with 11 restaurants participating in a charity campaign meant to collect funds for clean water-starved Sierra Leone. But the establishments pocket half the water fee and prominent restaurateurs are starting to lobby for an obligatory tap water charge - unrelated to aid for Africa - just as the charity programme's kicked-off.

That's led Vienna tourism director Norbert Kettner to call for an end to the Sierra Leone campaign, describing it as "an attempt by certain gastronomes to reduce service using the excuse of a charity action."

"The good reputation of Destination Vienna is compromised," insisted Kettner, describing the free glass of water "as a traditional service in Vienna's gastronomy."

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jul 18, 2012
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