With the holidays just around the corner, and all the revelry that will ensue, I’ve been meaning to discuss something with island drinking establishments. It stems from a comment a young person made to me recently, when I asked why the individual left a fundraiser at a popular local bar early.
“I didn’t want to hang out and pay $4 for a coke all night,” was the response.
I thought, “You know, you have a point.”
So my discussion is about the price drinking establishments charge for soda, juice and water. It’s pretty much a given that more people who walk into a bar or lounge will drink alcoholic beverages than will not imbibe.
I worked at a restaurant/bar chain for about a year when I was young, so I know that alcohol sales is where bars and restaurants make their real money. That’s not the issue. It’s the price you charge for soda and water. If you log onto the websites of any of the island’s major bars or hotels, and check out the drink prices on the menus, most times you will find prices between $4-$5 for soft drinks (and these are fountain soft drinks, mind you – not even a can that had to be purchased by the case), juices or bottled water. The water, for those many of us who do not have access to one of the island’s commissaries, is usually between $5.99 and $9.99 for a case of 24 bottles (unless there is a storm brewing on the horizon, in which case you might see a bit of price-gouging).
So, let’s see, If the establishment in question has to buy water by the case from the outside, and it pays $5.99 per case, and charges $4 per bottle of water, 4x24=96, minus the 5.99 for the case, is a profit of $90.01, on a case of water. Now I know you have to factor in wages, insurance, etc., but still, $4 for a bottle of water?
It is definitely cheaper not to drink alcohol, but as someone who enjoys a few glasses of wine or the occasional margarita when I go out, I can tell you that I don’t mind paying the $7-$12 for a glass of wine, depending on the establishment, but I do mind paying $4 for a bottle of water. If the joint charges that much, I have enough faith in Guam Waterworks to ask for a glass of ice water with lemon.
So what I am proposing has to do more with giving a break to those designated drivers, or those in general who do not imbibe, but who want to go to a fundraiser at a bar, or just join friends on a night out on the island, but who don’t - who shouldn’t – have to pay what seems to be rather unreasonable prices not to drink.
So how about this: During the upcoming holiday season, why not just charge $2 for the basic non-alcoholic soda, juices and water. Virgin pina coladas and the like, knock yourselves out, because those take more time and ingredients. But for the basics, just charge the $2 per drink, or, if you really want to outdo yourselves, just charge $2.99 for the bottomless glass of soda or juice (when you add ice, you’re really not giving away that much liquid, anyway), and nothing for a glass of tap water with ice. See if you lose any profits. I’m betting you won’t.
Your prices will seem more reasonable, and you’ll make those customers who don’t imbibe alcohol happier. You may even make our streets a little safer, because those who are drinking may even take a breather between drinks (on the theory that if they only have to spend $2 for a bottle of water, that’s nothing, but they’re not going to waste $4 on a bottle of water or a soda when that $4 could go toward another beer or glass of wine).
Everybody wins, right? Cheers!
Jayne Flores is a long-time journalist. She currently works at Guam Community College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.