Fiji Water Threatens Closure; Bars Turning To Spirits On Tap

 

Sending waves through bottles of water around the world, bottling giant Fiji Water surprised many by announcing the impending end of its base operations yesterday. According to the LA Times, owners Lynda and Stewart Resnick are closing the doors in response to a new tax recently imposed by the island’s government on water extraction. The legislation, which would tax liters of water at fifteen Fijian cents per liter, up from one-third of a cent, appears to be almost directed exclusively towards Fiji Water, which has long been considered “tax-exempt”. It is also the sole water-extracting business on the island.

Fiji Water President John Cochran said in the statement that the tax increase was “a clear and unmistakable message to businesses operating in Fiji or looking to invest there: The country is increasingly unstable, and is becoming a very risky place in which to invest.” He said the company has paid millions of dollars in duties and income taxes to the Fijian government.

Unfortunately, due to the closure, nearly 400 Fiji Water employees will be laid off, with any in-progress construction projects led by the company halted as well. The interim prime minister of the small Pacific island, however, is undaunted by the company’s move to shutter its facilities.

“If Fiji Water is no longer interested in Fiji, then the Fijian government, following cancellation of the leases, will call for international tenders from credible and reputable private-sector companies to extract this valuable resource,” [Commodore Frank Bainimarama] said.

Since its start in 1995, Fiji Water has literally been spotted everywhere, from the White House to celebrity gatherings. Despite its outward popularity, the company has come under fire repeatedly over the years for everything from unsustainable production to shady business practices, as well as a total disconnect from (and some would say, disregard of) the Fijian community.

In the wake of the closure announcement, Bainimarama issued a stinging statement—his first public attack on the company—saying that “as usual Fiji Water has adopted tactics that demonstrate that Fiji Water does not care about Fiji or Fijians.”

On a lighter note, I may have heard a collective cheer from a few of my bartender friends with the recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle noting that some bars are now moving spirits on tap. According to the piece, a handful of drink destinations in the San Francisco area have implemented new taps behind the bar to offer on-tap spirits, including favorites like Maker’s Mark and Fernet-Branca.

“We’re in San Francisco, the industry drink is Fernet, why not be the first to put Fernet on tap?” says Duncan Ley, owner of the Russian Hill bars Bullitt and Tonic.

Similar to beer and wine taps, the liquor-on-tap system doesn’t “foam, carbonate, chill, or preserve”, but offers bars, and bar owners, the opportunity to present a “house liquor” effectively and efficiently to imbibing customers.

“It’s a statement,” says Reza Esmaili of Long Bar & Bistro. “When you choose to feature a particular spirit or liquor on tap, outside of conventional applications, it’s indicative of a house style.”

Should be interesting to see if the trend spreads across the country.

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1 Comment

  • kitchenMage says:

    There is a small part of me that is hoping this means the end of Fiji Water. Everything I have read about them screams slimy. It sucks that the locals lose jobs but Fiji Water has been taking advantage of the tax situation and, ultimately, seems like it is as good for the locals as a Walmart.

    Not that I have an opinion or anything…

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