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BYOB? What's the deal.

I have read many postings on this board while researching my upcoming New England vacation which mention that at certain restuarants you must BYOB. Being from Michigan, this concept is completely foreign to me. Can anyone tell me if this rule applies only to certain areas or counties? Or is it more complicated than that?

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  1. From what I know its certain restaurants, not areas or counties. Restaurants choose not to pay for the liquor license but due charge a small corkage fee to those who bring alcohol. I'm sure others on here can offer more of an in depth response.

    12 Replies
    1. re: mjp81

      It differs by state. Liquor laws are state laws and some of the rules make it easier or harder for restaurants when it comes to BYOB. In Chicago, BYOB restaurants are everywhere. In other areas, not so much. On top of that restaurants may have their own rules, some charge as much as $50 corkage fee depending on the place and the locale. Best to check with the restaurant before you go, they usually post the corkage fees on their website.

      1. re: mjp81

        in massachusetts, it varies by town. it is illegal in the city of boston, whether or not the restaurant has a liquor license.

        depending on where you're visiting, i shouldn't think you'll have much trouble though. resort towns know booze means tourist dollars!

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          I don't know about the other New England states, but in Massachusetts, if a restaurant offers beer/wine, BYOB is not allowed - ever. If the restaurant does not offer beer/wine/liquor, depending on the town, they may apply for a BYOB license. That is where it differs by town. The whole state is subject to ABCC laws, but after that, it is up to the individual towns. I believe that nowhere is BYOB acceptable without some kind of consent from a town.

        2. re: mjp81

          mjp81, I've never heard of a BYOB restaurant charging a corkage fee. Is this common where you live?

          1. re: ambrose

            Here in Portland corkage is standard. I think it's fair: they open & pour it, supply an ice bucket, supply & wash the glasses etc. If it's a particularly expensive bottle it's well worth any fee, considering the huge markup were they to serve it.

            We don't have "BYOB" places here. In Oregon, in order for customers to consume alcohol whether bought or brought in, the place must have a license to serve. As to allowing BYOB it's purely up to the place, but in any case they must have an alcohol license.

            1. re: Leonardo

              So, ambrose is really, then, asking a different questions. Corkage is standard when you bring a bottle to a place that has its own wine list and/or bar. However, if its a place that has no wine or liquor (and its legal to bring a bottle to the restaurant...as its clearly not in many locales) then do they charge a corkage? If they're providing the same service as a place that would normally serve wine (ie, stemware, opening the bottle, pouring, etc) then it would make sense to me to charge a corkage fee. If all they're doing is setting down a couple of glasses for you to pour your own, then it wouldn't seem reasonable to charge a fee. BYOB is also a somewhat confusing term to me...the last "B" standing for "beer." I'm working on the presumption that the OP means all alcohol.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    Ah, learn something new every day. Thanks! :)

                1. re: ccbweb

                  ccbweb, you're correct about my question. If a restaurant does not have a license to serve liquor BUT local laws permit patrons to bring their own wine or beer, do they (or may they) charge a corkage fee? I have never heard of this but perhaps different jurisdictions have different laws.

                  BTW, you raise an interesting question. I wonder if you can take your own scotch or gin or vodka or whatever to a BYO place. I somehow doubt it. Most of the time restaurants specify that you are welcome to bring your own wine or beer. They do not say 'alcohol'.

                  1. re: ccbweb

                    we always said it was bring your own booze, but i believe ti is supposed to be bottle. In many places (like Honoululu), there is a special BYOB lisence that the restauranteer must obtain from the liquor commission. It is one of the easiest and least expensive of the myriad lisences. The corkage fee helps offset that cost, keeping a corkscrew or two, and stocking glassware for wine, providing a bucket to chill white, and sometimes the waiter will be allowed to uncork and pour - other places not. I know in some restaurants they have a set corkage fee, but frequently don't charge their regular customers. And like ambrose said, BYOB is usually just for beer or wine, not hard liquor.

                2. re: ambrose

                  In response to ambrose, Francisco's in Portland, ME charges a $3 corkage fee per person. As stated on their website it is due to the extra insurance that they have to take out. They are the only place I can think of in Portland that does this. Most places have the liquor license.

              1. It absolutely depends on where you are headed. Some states/counties do not allow BYOB under any circumstances (I think VA is one). Some only allow it for restaurants that do NOT have an alcohol license. Some leave it up to the individual restaurant's discretion. You have to check with each place you intend to patronize.

                3 Replies
                1. re: mojoeater

                  Just to be confusing, in California it is illegal to consume alcohol in a place that isn't licensed to serve it, so you aren't supposed to BYOB to a restaurant that doesn't have a license (although this law is widely ignored). However, virtually all restaurants will allow you to bring your own wine, as long as that particular wine isn't on their wine list and you're willing to pay corkage (which ranges from $ to $$$$). Or to put it another way, although you can bring your own wine to restaurants, there are no BYOB restaurants.

                  1. re: mojoeater

                    And, here in Massachusetts, if a restaurant has an application for a liquor license PENDING, it will not let you BYOB either.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      Whereas in Chicago it is pretty common for a new restaurant to to be BYOB while the liquor license goes through the city's byzantine process. At least the restaurant gets some cash flow while waiting.

                  2. The BYOB designation can apply to a local rule, or to the limited availability of liquor licenses and/or the desire to keep costs and regulatory compliance down. Just remember that in some places in the East Coast, being a BYOB is a huge recommendation. I lived in Philadelphia for seven years, and many of the best, hottest restaurants are BYOB's. One, a Mexican restaurant, makes fresh-juice Margariata mixes, and customers bring their own tequila.
                    Usually, a BYOB is a small, owner-chef place, with the focus on the cooking--a good thing! Be very open to trying them; most restaurants in Boston are not BYOBs, so the ones that are are usually interesting little places.
                    www.littlecomptonmornings.blogspot.com

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: janeer

                      pennsylvania has state-controlled liquor. like new hampshire, a completely different business model than most other states.

                      TO REITERATE: IT IS ILLEGAL in BOSTON TO BYOB. whether or not they have a license. statewide, it varies by town.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        Here in Québec, BYOWs are very common; "Apportez votre vin" in French. They began on rue Prince-Arthur in Montréal, then a sort of boho area, because there was nothing in the liquor laws forbidding the practice. Eventually the government legislated licences for the BYOWs, to raise revenue of course, but to some degree as a measure of controlling abuse.

                        Corkage fees are almost unknown here; there are so many BYOWs that except for a truly exceptional, upscale place, people would simply not patronise a place that practised them. Instead, the costs tend to get factored into the menu.

                        BYOWs range from souvlaki or spaghetti factories through quirky family or chef-owned places to some remarkable gastronomic establishments.

                        Wine and sometimes beer are allowed at BYOWs; bringing hard liquor is forbidden.

                        The sale of alcoholic beverages is government-controlled here; all hard liquor and most wines are only available at La Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ). Beers and some wines (alas, not the ones foodies will want to drink) are also available at grocery stores and corner stores known as dépanneurs. Wine is relatively expensive here and there are a lot of people who enjoy wining and dining who don't necessarily have a lot of money, so BYOWs were a logical development.

                        1. re: lagatta

                          In Pennsylvania and New Jersey BYOs are commonplace and we are quite spoiled by having that option widely available to us. Apparently it is because it is so hard (and/or expensive) to get a liquor license. I've never been charged a corkage fee at a BYO and I've eaten in a lot of them in both states. If a place does have a liquor license in those states, then expect to pay a corkage fee. I've never done that, however I understand that a $15 charge is about average.

                          1. re: Ellen

                            I do alot of BYOBs and have never paid a corkage fee either. Why the $15 for that fee? We all know that the food is jacked up to compensate.

                            1. re: Barbarella

                              For the same reason restaurants don't want you bringing your own food. They want to sell you their booze. That's why they pay big bucks for the liquor license.

                              1. re: Barbarella

                                That, and the restaurant is (or, if they're charging a corkage fee, should be) providing stem ware, decanter if necessary, opening the bottle, pouring the wine, refilling glasses...etc. Corkage fees make sense in that case, to me.