The Sideshow

Water-only café opens to flood of criticism in New York City

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A woman drinks New York City tap water in New York's Times Square. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

A water-only café serving filtered New York City tap water is facing a wave of criticism for its overpriced, artisanal H20.

Molecule, which recently opened in Manhattan's East Village, charges $2.50 per 16-ounce glass of water treated with its custom-built, $25,000 purifier.

It's "a cocktail bar for water enthusiasts," the Wall Street Journal said in its profile. "Patrons can order a shot of vitamins A, B, C, D and E or a mixture of roots, herbs, fruits and mushrooms blended in blasts called 'energy,' 'immunity' and 'skin, hair and nails' to add to their water."

The giant filtration machine "uses ultraviolet rays, ozone treatments and reverse osmosis in a seven-stage processing treatment" to create what Molecule's proprietors call "pure H20."

More from the café's website:

You can fill your own bottle at our store, or you can get 3 and 5 gallon jugs of our 'pharmaceutical-grade water' delivered to your home on a tricycle.

"It's about treating water a little more consciously, mindfully and respectfully," Adam Ruhf, the café's 32-year-old owner, told DNAinfo.com. "We are trying to change the way people think about water."

That may take some doing, at least among critics.

"Molecule bottled water is 'pure' nonsense," the New York Post's Steve Cuozzo wrote.

Cuozzo conducted a blind taste test using Molecule, Poland Spring, Evian, Fiji and unfiltered tap water. "Guess what?" he wrote. "Molecule was the only one I didn't like."

Public health experts say New York's tap water "is among the safest, highest quality in the world, a standard we confirm through more than 500,000 tests each year," a spokesman for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection told the Journal.

"Who'd waste money on Molecule?" Cuozza wrote. "Those who belong to the High Holy Church of Culinary Rectitude."

"Artisanal water," Jen Doll wrote on the Atlantic Wire. "It's what you sell when people will buy anything."

"Calling all suckers," James King wrote in the Village Voice. "We're not sure what's more unsettling: the fact that an East Village business is selling tap water for $2.50 a bottle, or that countless idiots will probably buy it."

"Either you buy into it or you don't," Ruhf told the Journal of his critics.

And what does he think about the city's tap water he's filtering?

"Terrible," Ruhf said. "I don't want chemicals in my water. I don't even want chlorine in my water. Chlorine is like bleach. Do you want to drink bleach? No one wants to drink bleach. So that's my opinion on New York tap water."

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