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BYOB Logistics?

I'm driving up from DC Friday to Philly to rendezvous with five other out-of-town friends.
We're going out to dinner and and I have been tasked with bring the wine/beer etc. to a yet to be named BYO restaurant. It will not be a dive.

I've read the archives but still am confused about what the etiquette is. As I don't know what the restaurant is and what people are likely to order, I'm not sure what to bring. On top of that, I'm sure at least two of the people will want beer rather than wine.

I'm afraid I'll look like a fool carting in 2-3 bottles of wine and a couple of six packs of beer.
I assume the white wine and beer must be brought in cold, if one wants to drink it that way. Do I need to bring a corkscrew?

If we run out of one type of beverage, it it safe to assume that there won't be an offsale location near by but I could go to the car and get more? What happens if a particular bottle of wine is not finished? Can I take it home without be guilty of an open-container offense?

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  1. well, i've never gone to dinner and not finished my wine, so i can't help you there...

    no, nothing wrong with bringing in your arsenal of alcohol... have some people help you carry! might look a little weird hauling in a case of beer, but 6 packs and wine bottles should be fine. i usually just bring them in in the store's bag.

    a word or a hundred of advice... you can't buy wine and beer at the same store here in PA... i would suggest stopping on your way up from DC at total wine in DE just before the PA border... don't leave it til right before dinner to get your wine AND your beer - the selection varies at the state wine stores and there's not always one within a couple blocks. then for 6-packs just run into a bar right before dinner (not the cheapest option), so it's nice and cold. many bars here have 6 pack takeout permits. the big beer warehouses tend to sell by the case and mostly warm (even the stuff that's been in the fridge). also, there are two beer store locations called the foodery, look them up to see if they're close to where you go; a fascinating selection of beers there. you can mix n match your 6 packs.

    1. From the standpoint of logistics, I think you might want to buy your booze before you leave home. Save you having to wonder around in a new city/area after a 2-3 hour drive. Pack the six pacs in a cooler with some ice and they'll be nice and cold for dinner. You probably wouldn't want to take the coolers into the restaurant. I usually use a book bag to transport wine into a restaurant. You know, canvas bag, no top, handles. It would probably work for the six pacs, too. Keep your eye on the corks for possible re-capping later. You're in a tough spot, not knowing who's going to drink how much of what, where you're going to eat, or what anyone is going to order. Maybe the best bet is to just buy what you like. If they don't like it, they won't give you this detail next time.

      1. The "etiquette" is quite simple -- carry your beer or wine into the restaurant in whatever way makes the most sense. It's not at all unusual, for example, for people to bring six-packs of beer into a Mexican restaurant in a cooler. You don't need to bring a corkscrew or stemware for your wine, but you might want to bring a bottle opener (if one is needed) for your beer.

        As for not knowing what to bring because you don't know what people will be ordering, it's very okay to bring in a selection of wines, and then choose to open whatever is appropriate for your meal. I'd suggest that you chill your whites ahead of time, so they'll be drinkable sooner than if they're room temp when you come in. And yes, ice buckets will be supplied if necessary, although sometimes you may need to ask for one.

        In my experience, the more upscale the restaurant, the greater the amenities. The better restaurants sometimes (but not always) provide better quality stemware.

        DO take rabidog's advice and buy your wine and beer before you cross into PA. The selection and prices will be better, and you won't be forced to play along with PA's arcane liquor laws, which require that you purchase a full case of beer, unless you're buying from a tavern, in which case you cannot buy more than 2 six-packs. If you're coming up I-95, you'd do well to detour into Wilmington to shop at Moore Brothers (http://www.wineaccess.com/store/moore...) for your wine.

        And, if you do happen to have an unfinished bottle of wine that you want to take home with you (I'll admit, that's NEVER happened to me), just cork it and stow it in the trunk of your car. I've never heard of anyone getting into trouble for having an open bottle of wine in their car. In fact, I know people who make a habit of opening and sampling every bottle of wine they bring along, prior to leaving home, just to make sure they're not bringing a spoiled (corked) bottle.

        I think the abundance of BYO restaurants is one of the best things about PA's dining scene. Enjoy!

        1. May sound a bit redundant but I would like to convey that the info you're recieving is correct. Definatly buy out of state because the laws here will confuse you, and as far as showing up w/ booze of any sort. Act just as you would attending a friends upscale dinner party. No one here will think twice with you coming or going. Enjoy your meal! (and your wine!)

          1. I just wanted to chime in and say that the BYO scene in Phila is AWESOME! It is so prevalent that people really do drink so many different things, even liquor with mixers at BYOs. I prefer beer to wine and often bring single beers to dinner, often in a little cooler. Open wine is no big deal and I've never been to a place that won't throw something in their fridge if you ask. And they're always willing to bring you an ice bucket (for wine or beer) as somone else mentioned.

            I do want to mention that if you're dining near 10th and Pine or in Northern Liberties, you may want to save some of your beer buying for when you get there. The Foodery is a pick-your-own six pack shop that has literally the most extensive beer selection I've ever seen.

            2 Replies
            1. re: cwatts

              I'm curious about the liquor laws in PA. What are the rules about BYOB?
              Is there a special fee required for BYOB privledges, or do you have to be in the application process for a license to be able to allow BYOB?

              In NM where I live, one cannot bring alcohol into a licensed premise ( no corkage fee allowed). In fact, untill July last year you could not take a partially emptied bottle from a restaurant. Now you can, in a tamperproof doggie bag. You also can't bring alcohol into an unlicensed premise period. Full liquror licenses start at about $300,000, and can be brokered for alot more than that, since there are a limited number that have been issued. A beer and wine license costs about $2,000. It's always interesting to see how state liquor laws vary so drastically, especially in the south.

              1. re: scottso

                The liquor laws in Pennsylvania are arcane and are controlled by the Liquor Control Board. The liquor stores are government-owned establishments and the people who work in the liquor stores are government employees.

                It is my understanding that the number of liquor licenses for restaurants are made available based on the population of the town or township, and that they are unbelievably expensive. So even if a restaurant desiring a liquor license was willing and able to pay the fee, a license might not be available. Therefore, many restaurants are BYO -- patrons can bring in their own wine or other alcoholic drink of choice and the restaurant provides stemware. There are a few restaurants that charge a corkage fee that might range from $2.50 to about $10.00 a bottle; most, however, do not. And I don't think I've ever heard of a corkage fee charged for beer. Also, there are some restaurants I'm aware of that have a license for selling beer but not wine. In these restaurants, guests can bring their own wine to have with dinner. As far as I know, there is no special fee paid by the restaurant for permitting BYO.

            2. Thanks to all that replied. Your knowlege was certainly helpful and I did exactly what you suggested-buying before getting to PA and carrying it in in a couple of book bags. I felt very comfortable as I noticed the other two tables had also brought in several bottles of wine.

              The restaurant will remain nameless, even though the experience was excellent. The host brought out a full bar drink menu and I explained that I had brought the wine we would like to have. He explained that they were no longer a BYO, that their website had only indicated that it was BYO during an unexplained holiday or anniversary season. I ordered a house carafe of chardonney from the menu (16.00 or 55.00/gallon for parties of 6 or more) while waiting for my friends to arrive. After they were seated and the house wine was poured, the host came back to apologize and said we could drink the wine we brought if we ordered full dinners and did not tell anyone. He brought glasses but never offerred a corkscrew or to pour. Good for us, I had a corkscrew on my swiss army knife.

              This charade was repeated with all the other tables. Some tables got irrate and walked out and others caved ordering strictly from the wine list, but most played along and had a great evening.

              I'm not sure if the whole thing was a put up to expand the experience of being in a speakeasy (restaurant is in a hard to find alleyway where you have to knock to get admitted) or just another way of adding to the receipts or just plain shady.

              10 Replies
              1. re: ditsyquoin

                I've been to restaurants that were, at one time, BYO, and have subsequently obtained liquor licenses. It's been my experience that people who unknowingly bring their own wine are permitted to drink it "this time, but you'll know our new policy the next time you come in." If their website hasn't been updated or the liquor license is relatively new, this is particularly true. There are also restaurants that are BYO only on certain days of the week -- usually mid-week.

                You did the right thing by ordering a house carafe. Once the host gave you the okay to have your own wine, they should have provided the corkscrew and even uncorked your bottle(s) for you when they brought your stemware. And whether the waitstaff pours your wine for you or doesn't is sometimes a matter of restaurant policy. What I mean is, there are many BYO restaurants that will open your wine and provide stemware, but don't necessarily pour for you.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Maybe the restaurant didn't feel that too much service should be provided if they weren't charging corkage.

                  1. re: yayadave

                    I agree that they should have uncorked your bottles for you but it sounds like the host was trying to keep things as low-key as possible, given the recent switch. And I'm pretty sure it wasn't a put up, people simply would stop going to a place that would do that. Liquor licenses are notoriously hard to get in PA and it wouldn't be unusual that a place would start out as a BYO and make the switch as CindyJ mentioned.

                    And regarding the corkage, I've eaten at many of the restos mentioned on this board and I've never paid corkage. I understand that most of the upscale places may charge it (obviously if you bring in your own bottle to a place with a liquor license) but my experience is that the vast majority of BYOs in phila don't charge. Also, as CindyJ mentioned, they may or may not pour for you.

                    1. re: cwatts

                      i've never paid a corkage either.
                      never had that sorta thing happen to me, but it sounds you did what i would have done too. the resto should have provided the wine fixins, i agree.

                      off topic sorta, but what i think is really weird (and has happened several times at various places around the city) is when i bring a bottle and they open it, and pour a taste for me and wait for me to approve it. like, what am i going to do if i don't like my own wine? tell them to take it back and fetch me another bottle? :)

                      1. re: rabidog

                        Maybe they expect you can return it to where you got it? It's normal wine service to have the patron check it the bottle is good (as opposed to check if he/she likes it). If you brought your own, obviously they can't fetch another bottle, but if half the bottle is gone you'll likely not be able to take it back to the store, either.

                        1. re: hsk

                          I've never had to 'taste' wine that I've brought to a BYOB, but I assume it is just a somewhat inexperienced server going through the usual motions.

                          one thing I haven't seen anyone mention here, with respect to BYO etiquette, is that (IMO) one should tip the server based on the price of the meal + the price (at least what you paid) for the wine/beer. This would be especially true in a place that also had a liquor license.

                          1. re: bnemes3343

                            I'd like to hear a little more about your thinking on this matter. In a BYO restaurant that does not have a liquor license, why would you include the cost of the wine or beer you brought in yourself as you figured the amount on which your tip was based?

                            1. re: CindyJ

                              Well, first understand that I am neither a server or a restaurant owner. I just eat at their places. I guess my opinion is based on the fact that the 'effort' involved (ok, not that great), with opening the wine, bringing an ice bucket (maybe, for a white), pouring, etc., is no different than what you would get from a place with a liquor license. I happen to live in NJ where there are probably more BYOB places than those with a LL. I doubt that too many people actually follow this rec though.

                        2. re: rabidog

                          Well, for example, if it's corked, not serve it to your guests nor pour yourself a full glass. Instead, either order a bottle from them or open another one you brought.

                          It's standard procedure for any wine service, even at one's house, to taste it to ensure its quality before serving.

                          1. re: xanadude

                            Which is why some people open and sample their wine(s) before leaving home. Most of the time, here in PA, ordering a bottle from the restaurant is not an option. That's why they're BYO.

                2. I would leave a 20% tip for the food portion, if they did not charge you corkage and opened your wine - glasses etc, then I would toss in additional money for that $5-10 per bottle depending on service and place.