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May 5, 2004 09:22 PM

Is BYOB illegal in Ontario?

  • j

After Perigee was decalared the winner in my "special dinner" run-off post, I made my reservations and requested a "birthday vintage" ('62 Krug) for my wife. I also asked about corkage policy, and the response was. "we don't have a corkage policy." Then I heard Ontario allows no BYOB; true? And does this mean that unless the staff at Perigee can find the Krug for me (and mark it up a $100, I'm sure), I can't have it? I ask because I'm sure I could track down my own bottle here in Chicago and have it shipped to the restaurant, re-sold, or whatever. But not if it's illegal. Any thoughts?

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  1. Sorry no BYOB in Ontario... there is no legal way to get you own bottle into a restaurant. BUT in reality I have seen people bring in their own vintages for special occasions (but usually they are regulars) Bring a bottle with you, ask to speak to the manager when you arrive slip him some us cash and explain the birthday significance... the worst they can say is no... then you have the wine later at the hotel...


    6 Replies
    1. re: Rob

      Wow, that's really sad. Are wine markups in Ontario restaurants consistent with U.S. markups? Because that would be doubly sad!

      1. re: JimInLoganSquare

        There is only one place in Ontario that is BYOB. Michael Stadtlander's Eigensinn Farm in Singhampton, an hour and a half north of the city. It has been rated by a UK food magazine as one of the top ten kitchens in the world and by BMW as one of the top six on the planet. It's not really a restaurant because:
        a) you eat as one of only 8 per evening in their home
        b) you can't get a reservation
        At $250 per mouth, giving diners the option of taking their own wines is a civilized courtesy.

        1. re: eatingzen

          The restaurants in Algonquin Park also permit BYOB.

          1. re: sunnyside

            Mamina's restaurant on Wellesley just west of Yonge marks up all of their wines only $5 a bottle.

          2. re: eatingzen
            Ted Richards

            Actually, any unlicenced restaurant in an establishment where you are staying overnight is able to provide BYOB service (technically it's considered your "residence" for the day).

            Places where you can bring your own, quite openly, if you're staying there, include Arowhon Pines in Algonquin Park, Ste. Anne's Spa in Grafton and the Hillcrest Spa in Port Hope. None of those charge any corkage.

            Technically, ANY restaurant can provide BYOB, provided you get a Special Occasion Permit (cost $25) from the LLBO at least 10 days ahead of the meal, and it is in an area of the restaurant not open to the general public (a separate room, or even a section of the room blocked off from the public). But check first with the restaurant to see if they will allow it.


            1. re: Ted Richards
              Guy Middleton

              I have stayed at Ste. Anne's and I can confirm this. Absolutely no trouble bringing wine, so long as you're staying overnight.

      2. Hey Jim,

        You make yourself out to be such a big shooter-Why worry if Perigee marks up the bottle by $100.00. If the restaurant will let you bring your own bottle (which I highly doubt) call the LCBO (government owned booze and wine distributor) store at Scrivner Square (416)922-0403. A beautiful store with tons of classics and better prices and selection then anystore in the windy city.

        1. First, BYOB is completely illegal (and opposed strongly by the Restaurant Association here). It was recently 'floated' as an idea by the new Provincial Government, but seems to have got lost recently.
          The only places that have an 'exemption' (for which incidentally there is no legislation that I'm aware of) are 'politically sensitive' places. Eigensinn was the subject of a headline grabbing law suit over the issue of wine 'sales' (and has been rated one of the finest restaurants in the world) and the place in Algonquin is/was owned by the family of the most influential restaurant critic in Canada. Both 'appear' to operate under some kind of lodging "exemption" (although there's no such exemption legally) despite the fact that Eigensinn doesn't take in overnight guests.
          The penalty for an infraction is a fine plus loss of liquor license, the latter being potentially ruinous for a restaurant. Which, of course, means that licensed restaurants are unlikely to attempt this. They are even more wary after the Eigensinn case, where undercover RCMP officers 'lured' (my word and the impression of most observers, but legally non-applicable) the wife of Eigensinn's chef into 'selling' a $10 bottle of wine and then arrested them.
          So an Outsider, such as yourself, has virtually no hope of achieving this.
          Does BYOB exist in 'fact'. Of course. You can find 'a few' (words deliberately chosen) ethnic restuarants where the community often bring in wine/liquor. I've also seen it happen in finer restaurants for 'special' customers such as Government officials and lawyers. One prominent 'personage' (word carefully chosen) is famous for bringing wine into restaurants - I've seen this happen at several places (the restaurateurs don't particularly like it but are intimidated).
          There is a loophole (legal) for 'Diplomatic' functions - you can (potentially) have a function sponsored by the French consulate where Krug is served - I actually attended a Krug dinner a couple of years ago, organized this way. But this probably isn't realistic!

          As for Perigee - they're a new restaurant and don't have an extensive cellar. The 62 Krug hasn't been available retail in recent history (although the 64 was at $650 Cdn - sold out) so not likely to find it available at any restaurants (the only 3 possibilities I'd guess would be Opus; Via Allegro; and Barberians).

          If the restaurant could get it from an agent (agents exist and are registered with the LCBO, but all wine must be ordered through the LCBO) it would be legal - but that is only if the wine is currently in the 'agent warehouse'; typically it takes a long time to order and receive wine. And I'm not sure who the current agent is (used to be Diageo Canada, but there was a huge shake-up/divestiture about 18 months ago and Krug got shaken out of Diageo).
          It's also 'quasi-illegal' to ship wine to Canada (it must be imported through the LCBO) - an exemption is possible for small quantities upon payment of duties/taxes of over 100%!!!!!!!!
          But you can carry wine (1.5 litres/person) with you without duty being applied.
          So save the Krug for another birthday/anniversary!

          6 Replies
          1. re: estufarian
            Ted Richards

            Correct me if I'm wrong, Alan, But wouldn't it be perfectly legal to open the wine (that he's brought into Canada duty-free) in his hotel room, and have a restaurant (or room service) deliver the meal? Not as nice, but a possible alternative if he really, really has to have that wine with dinner.

            1. re: Ted Richards

              You're right (of course) Ted.
              Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms the State "has no place in the bedrooms of the nation". So you can drink whatever you like in your own bedroom!

              Under the Innkeepers Act (I think, but could be mistaken)) when you rent a room it becomes your 'abode for the night' so its a surrogate home.
              However, it's not necessarily OK to put these together - the additional factors are whether it is a "public space" or "licensed premises". Different laws apply to these and in simple terms you can't bring your own alcohol into either (which means, for example, it's illegal to have an open bottle of beer in the street or in a park, unless its in a specific licensed area). Enforcement is a completely different issue - this is routinely ignored for some street festivals (again example).
              Thus you can drink in any hotel room - but don't go into the corridor.
              Of course there's nothing here to permit an Eigensinn type operation where it's not your residence, as you can't rent rooms there!
              I'm thinking of starting a B&B - presumably then I can allow the residents (who rent but never actually occupy a room) to BYOB (not really; tongue firmly in cheek).

              OK I'll step down from my high horse. I'm totally opposed to most of the things done by the LCBO, LLBO(AGCO) etc. Making enforcement 'arbitrary' (as it currently is) allows for discrimination against selected persons or groups. I want fewer (reasonable) rules that are enforced equitably. Not the abuses such as the one where a youthful acquaintance of mine was found drinking with his girlfriend and was convicted (criminal record) of "contibuting to the delinquency of a minor". By the way, the young lady was older than he was! Signing out on this topic.

            2. re: estufarian

              Will that message self-destruct in 5 seconds? :=)

              I guess we'll think about the Krug some other time. I don't think I want to start an international incident over a beverage choice. Thanks for providing such a thorough and entertaining discussion of the topic, though!

              1. re: JimInLoganSquare
                Guy Middleton

                The BYOB situation may be about to change, see

              2. re: estufarian

                Regarding depth, breadth and history of posts. Whatever you are, I salute you, good sir.


                1. re: estufarian

                  Diageo is still the Krug distributor in Canada. Fred Sohnermann is the Director of Wines and Agency Brands 416-626-2000 Ext.2212 if you are insistent on that '62.