A Beverly Hills Bar Has Water, Water from Everywhere, and That's All There Is to Drink

updated 02/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Out on Rodeo Drive, where the high prices and desert temperatures can give anyone a man-size thirst, the hot new watering hole is the only bar in America where they water the drinks and get away with it.

The water bar is tucked away in the rear of lxi:z, pronounced ick-sees, a pricey clothing shop. (The name comes from a pronunciation of the Roman numeral twenty—that halcyon age, say the owners, when life is most effervescent.) On sale are 68 varieties of bottled water from 25 countries. At $1 to $2 a bottle, these still (and carbonated) waters run fairly cheap and are served strictly straight up. Ice cubes are a violation of international waters, says owner Steve Mills, because they "void out the subtleties."

Mills came up with the idea for the bar one day last year when he was strolling with Shoji Watanabe, a Japanese associate. "It was a warm California day," reports Mills, "about 1 or 2 in the afternoon, when Mr. Watanabe asked where he could get a glass of water. It dawned on us that we might just have to build such a place." Mr. Watanabe's yen for water translated into an initial $10,000 investment on Mills's part. After casting his bread upon the waters, Mills opened the bar in November. Celebrity customers include Scott Baio, Moon Unit and Dweezil Zappa, and Farrah Fawcett. Bartender and manager August Suelflow recalls that Farrah (who probably was invited because of her last name) had as her water pick "something basic like Vittel from France."

The biggest seller in the water bar is Rokko, a Japanese water that comes in a printed carton. It's followed in popularity by Hawaiian Water and Borsec, from Romania. All water is served in plastic glasses. An inconspicuous H20 sign is the only hint of the product quaffed within. Eager to flood the market, Suelflow says that future plans include a Water-of-the-Month Club.

Since it opened, the water bar has done well, its initial trickle of customers now turned into a torrent. "On very good days, the bar sells 200 bottles," says Suelflow. "We didn't start the water bar to be pretentious," says Mills. "Water has an honest, straightforward appeal." He says that the bar exists primarily as an oasis for lxi:z' other customers and that he really only expects to break even on it. Well, at least he won't take a bath.

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