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City Zen corkage fee: $50.00

am I behind the times? have a special occasion at City Zen that is coming up; I called to ask them about a corkage fee, and they said it was $50.00.

which is fine and all, but is this normal for restaurants in DC?

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  1. Extremely high for a DC restaurant. But Zen doesn't want folks bringing in wine and this is their way of discouraging it. The normal corkage fee in DC restaurants is about $20, with some lower, and some actually waiving it if you buy something off the list too. There are some places that have free corkage on certain nights, usually Sunday or Monday, but not places of the par with Zen. I don't think I've ever spend more than $20 on corkage in DC, but then there are places like Citronelle that do not permit corkage at all. (as is their right)

    1. whew, that seems high. And yes I know..."you're paying for the service, the crystal, the decanting..."

      If I'm bringing my own, I'll stick with Charlie Palmer Steak and their $0 corkage fee for domestics.

      1. It's high, but I can't imagine bringing a $30.00 bottle of wine to a nice restaurant- I'd rather just buy something off the list. If I'm bringing a 3-400 dollar bottle of wine I'm not going to be too opposed to paying that much in corkage.

        1. My real gripe about CityZen is that not only do they have a very high corkage (I always buy a bottle from the house when I bring something nice from my cellar); but also that their wine markup on moderate wines is more than three times retail. (Given that they pay wholesale that is a 400%+ margin). Unfortunately this gives me indigestion, so I don't eat there. I would prefer they raise there food prices rather than make me feel like wine is way over priced. There are many high end places in DC with excellent food and reasonable wine mark-ups.

          1 Reply
          1. in dc legal corkage fee limit is 20$. more than 20$ is not.

            3 Replies
                1. re: mousse T

                  I'm going to call BS on this post in that I can find no law whatsoever to prove this- though if you can I'll gladly recant.

                2. There was a bill introduced a year or so ago that would have limited corkage to $25, but it did not pass. I am not aware of any law in DC that addresses corkage limits.

                  As to limits, some restaurants limit the number of bottles that you can bring. Corduroy now has a three bottle limit per table thanks to a very obnoxious customer who decided that he was not going to abide by their corkage rules. I think Bistro Bis has a two bottle per table limit. I'm not sure about what others limit the number of bottles. It has made it difficult for the rest of us who like to get together and share wine over a nice meal. (I fondly remember a dinner where we opened 15 bottles of very nice wine over the evening for the 10 of us attending. And our dinner at Corduroy pre the limit was outstanding.)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: dinwiddie

                    The highest margin items at most restaurants is the alcohol, appetizers, and desserts. This when a 10 top brings opens 15 of their own bottles, that's quite a bit of potential profit lost to the restaurant. The corking fee helps offset this potential profit loss, so I certainly thinks it makes sense. $50 may be excessive, but it's a private establishment so the best thing to do if you disagree with it is to either not go there or let the ownership know how you

                    1. re: rcheng

                      The 15 bottles for the ten of us was the high end of things. We normally have about one bottle each with a few extras. We also buy a couple from the list. We tend to meet about once a month at various DC restaurants. We normally have a theme (last time it was Champagne, Burgandy and Sushi at Kaz's Sushi Bistro) work out things ahead of time with the restaurant and chef, and spend a good bit of money. The restaurants have always been happy to have us as they know that all of us eat out often and will return on our own with spouses etc. if we enjoyed it. Several restaurants have made a point of asking us when we would do it again. Most of us are fairly well known to the chefs in town and they ususally join us for a glass or 6, and the servers all know that they will get to taste some great wines and that they will get a very good tip (we tend to tip in the 30%+ range to make up for not buying a lot of wine) We also tend to do it on nights that are normally slower for the restaurant like Monday or Tuesday (but believe it or not, Saturday is a slow day for some restaurants that are normally "expense account" places) and have the chef work up a special meal to go with what we are bringing. We negotiate a fixed price up front to include the meal, tax, tip and corkage. Let's face it, the kinds of people who collect wine are also the kind who will spend a good deal of money on a good meal. Most of us are not only chowhounds, but also love food as well as wine and eat out often and well. I'm not going to bring an expensive Bordeaux to McDonalds (no matter what Miles did in the movie) and when I do take a wonderful bottle of wine with me to a restaurant, I want the meal to be just as wonderful. To give you an idea of the kinds of places we go, we've been to Dino (several times, we love his place and his wine list) Corduroy, the Caucaus Room, Aquarelle, Gabriel (when Tony Burell was chef there) Circle Bistro, Butterfield 9, DC Coast, Lavandeau (free corkage on Monday nights!) La Paradeau, 701, Chef Geoff's, Mendecino Grill, just to name a few. And we all have been back on our own to eat there often too.

                  2. My answer is to bring a Balthazar (16 bottle equivalent). Hmmmm even at $50, that's under $3.50 per bottle ! Truly a "win win".

                    1. Most places charge a double corkage fee for a magnum, etc. So the fee for a Balthazer would be $320