The Fédération Horéca Wallonie has come out strongly against the intention of the incoming PS-MR-Ecolo administration in Wallonia to impose free distribution of water in public places and restaurants, as expressed by the coalition in its regional policy statement.
Such a measure would have an impact on jobs, said federation president Thierry Neyens, whose organisation represents owners of hotels, bars and restaurants in Wallonia.
“We are resolutely opposed to banning a private business sector from selling any more water to the consumer,” said Neyens. “The price of bottled water includes service, investment and offsetting costs. If that is taken away, a balance will have to be sought, which will doubtless shift the true cost elsewhere: onto the menu, the bread and butter that are provided, or the olives, for example.”
He argued that free water as provided in France cannot be applied in Belgium. “It’s true that water is served for free abroad, but the model is different from one country to the next,” he said. “Sometimes you pay for the cutlery, the appetizers etc.”
The Federation also contends that there are risks for employment. “It needs to be borne clearly in mind that there will be job losses in our sector, which already has a hard time striking a balance,” Neyens said. “It would also have an impact on Walloon companies that produce bottled water like Spadel or Chaudfontaine.”
The Brussels Times