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A good friend invited us to a birthday dinner at Lucques tomorrow night with a small group. We are all Wine collectors and like to indulge in several NICE bottles during dinner. Being aware of Lucques RIDICULOUS corkage policy I advised my Host that they have a limit of TWO BOTTLES PER TABLE. She called the restaurant and talked to Carolyn about some kind of compromise, which turned out to be IF WE BUY TWO BOTTLES OFF THE LIST WE CAN HAVE THE "HONOR" OF OPENING OUR OWN BUT WITH A "FRIENDLY" SIXTEEN DOLLAR CHARGE EA. If you do the math thats at least 300- before any food gets ordered, and were supplying most of the wine. My friend called back today to attempt another try at softening this ridged stance, NO DICE! Anyway she cancelled the party of eight and we booked at FOUR OAKS where the food is much better and they were happy to "look the other way" for most if not all our Corkage. I WILL NEVER SET FOOT IN LUCQUES AGAIN! EVER, as long as these goofy rules exist. Besides MIMOSA just down the street and it's far better anyway.

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  1. j
    Jon Leventhal

    Corkage seems to have gotten out of hand in LA. Many restaurants, which charged $5-10 less than 18 months ago, now charge between $15-25 and impose limits.

    For someone like me, with over 500 bottles, it means that I'm now eating at home more often. And when I do go out I rarely order any liquor, or bottled water either.

    Exceptions to this rule are:

    Angelini - $15 corkage, but plenty of wines under $25. And they wave corkage for every bottle you buy off this list.

    Pacific Dining Car - Reasonable markup. Too bad their food is so expensive.

    Chinois - Their cheapest whites (Montelena Reisling etc) are usually about $25 and go wonderfully with the food.

    Arnie Morton's - Charges $15, but give you Spielgau stems and are very accomodating. Still much cheaper than their list.

    Can't think of any others right now. If more restaurants had reasonable wine lists, then corkage wouldn't be an issue anyway.


    6 Replies
    1. re: Jon Leventhal

      I've had great luck at Morton's. On my last two visits I've had a very thoughtful waiter who didn't charge me any corkage fee. It's happened to me on a couple of occassions and I know it wasn't simply a case of them forgetting--it was clearly stated on the bill (something along the lines of 'corkage x 2 =$0). My personal policy when this happens is to split the savings with the waiter. If he saved me $30, I add $15 to the tip.

      1. re: Jon Leventhal

        Josie Restaurant charges just $15 corkage fee which is waved if you also purchase a bottle from her list. Sounds like a nice compromise to me.

        1. re: dotrat

          JOSIE is one of my FAVORITE Restaurants and If I was choosing the location for tonight , probably would have picked there for sure. Josie makes wonderful food and is FAIR about Corkage.

          1. re: russkar

            Hey Russ, a restaurant is a business. The wine sales are the way that restaurants make a profit. Why should a business miss out on making a profit on a 8 top. As far as Mimosa goes thats the funniest thing i ever heard. Not even in the same league.

            1. re: Jack

              The issue is most restaurants don't have the same LEVEL or types of wines that collectors do , that's why we like to bring our own. I've had mixed experiences at both restaurants , so it just depends on the day and the Chef and what you order.

      2. Whatever. YOU do the math. There are many ways to add it up... buy a couple of bottles of sherry to start the night, or some port for after dinner. If your wines are so terrific then sixteen bucks shouldn't make such a difference. It sounds like you don't even like the food they serve so why were you even going to the place to begin with?

        1. Personally, I find $16 a little high but I don't find it unreasonable. If you have something really special to drink, that will always be a great savings, even if they had the wine listed on the menu.

          I do have to make a comment about Mimosa vs. Lucques. The last meal I had at Mimosa was salty swill, they opened a bottle of water when I asked for "water," and then quickly opened a second one without asking.

          Finally, Lucques has the usual markup but they have any number of inexpensive, highly drinkable wines.

          I get more aggravated with restaurants were everything starts at $50 or $75 then restaurants who impose a corkage.

          6 Replies
          1. re: JudiAU

            It is totally inappropriate to ever bring or consider opening any bottle that is on a WINE LIST. I'm not overly concerned about paying 16- corkage, the problem lies with the attitude and we're talking about several bottles, plus the restaurants demand that we buy TWO bottles off their list, I'll be relaxing and dining at 4 Oaks tonight instead.

            1. re: russkar

              Coming from the point of view that it's something of a reach for a restaurant to allow patrons to bring in their own wine at all (would they allow you to bring in your own steak?), I have no problem paying a fair corkage fee. $15 or $20 seems to be fairly normal here in South OC.

              What I'm not sure about is exactly why it's such a major transgression to bring in a wine that is on the restaurant's wine list. I do understand that it might be a bit of an irritant to the restaurateur that he could have sold you the same wine you brought in, but is one supposed to call ahead and check to see if they happen to have a '97 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red beforehand? Quite seriously, is there a workable etiquette for making sure in advance?

              1. re: Midlife

                If you're Jack Nicholson, it's OK; if not, not.

                1. re: Midlife

                  If you're Jack Nicholson, it's OK; if not, not.

                  1. re: Midlife

                    I agree with you that it is something of a reach and that restaurants are in no way obligated to allow you to bring your own wine in, and that $15 or $20 is perfectly reasonable corkage.

                    It is in fact a fairly material breach of wine etiquette to bring in a bottle that is already on the wine list. My strategy is twofold in that regard. One, I always bring at least 3 or 4 (sometimes 6) bottles of wine with me, with the intent of opening just one or two... I have a special tote bag designed to carry and insulate 6 bottles of wine (easy to find for around $40), that way I'm pretty safe that at least one of my bottles isn't on the list. Additionally if it is a restaurant that has a VERY comprehensive wine list, such as Valentino (150,000+ bottles), I definitely DO call ahead and ask if a particular wine is on the list, just to be safe.

                    Lastly, most of my hard core collector friends have a pretty good idea of what is available in the distribution and auction market out there for wine and therefore have a passing understanding of what is available for most mainstream restaurants on their wine lists, so we try and avoid bringing mid-range or even high end "mainstream" wines. I'm talking about things that are widely distributed such as a Mondavi Reserve or Opus One, both of which will be on on 80% of high end wine lists. Less likely to be found are boutique offerings from higher end Italian, German or Burgundian producers... Also these wines are usually VERY expensive on restaurant wine lists. It is not at all unusual for wines that we bring to be routinely seen on other restaurant wine lists for $800 to $1200 per bottle.

                    I know this sounds like it's a bit much, but it helps when you recognize that we're more than a little crazy about this stuff, so go figure... god knows we know how insane we are :)... certainly our wives think so... :)

                    Short answer... if you really want to bring a particular bottle, I'd call to make sure, and/or bring a couple of back ups. I also always make sure it's a "really good" bottle of wine and offer a taste to the manager/chef/sommelier - take your pick. Has always worked wonders for me.

                    1. re: woo!

                      It's also appropriate to purchase a bottle from the Wine List to add to your(brought in bottle(s)). This allows the Restaurant to make a nice beverage profit and normally eliminates a Corkage Charge.

              2. I could not agree more. I've had 2 extremely mediocre bordering on bad experiences at Lucques and won't darken their door again! Also agree about that Four Oaks and Mimosa are much better.
                So what is it about "trendy" places who continue to prosper despite their deficiencies and manage to keep long lines of sheep beating a path to their door. Oh well...just a rhetorical question.

                1. I have to side with the 'pro-business' posts, for lack of a better term. Most retaurants lose money on food, and make their money on drinks and wine. So I don't mind paying the corkage, or am fine to try something new on their list the restaurant might suggest with what we order. That said, you certainly have the right to boycott the place, though I would hate to go through life without ever eating at Lucques again (huge fan of the place here.)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Tom P
                    Jon Leventhal

                    Why should wine drinkers, who, in my experience have higher food tabs as well, subsidize those who don't drink? Shouldn't it be the other way around?

                    I've gotten so fed up with high alcohol costs in this country that I've stopped ordering beverages when dining out - tap water only please. And I'm dining out less frequently as well.

                    I've been to Europe four times over the past year, and each time am reminded that alcoholic beverages (beer and wine mostly) are an intrinsic part of dining, not a way to pad the bill. Water cost $2 for a large bottle, beer the same as coke, and a decent bottle of wine can always be found for under $20, usually much less. And this includes tax and tip!!!


                    1. re: Jon Leventhal
                      s.m. koppelman

                      Gosh! By that line of reasoning, I'm surprised you don't bring your own _food_, too. How dare restaurants charge $24 for a steak that only cost them $6!

                  2. OK, Lets be real here...

                    We all probobly agree, corkage is a drag, I know dont want to pay it, but you can't have something for nothing. So, you own the wine already, why pay more right? Heres why...
                    The waiter will need to polish and set the glassware. Then the waiter needs to open and pour the wine, perhaps spending time keeping it chilled to the proper temp. and making sure the glasses are filled. A steward will need to clear and run all the glasses to the back. A dishwasher will need to wash the glasses, A steward runs them to the front... polish, set, etc. No big deal right? but it takes TIME.
                    If eight of you roll in to indulge in SEVERAL bottles of wine... it is alot of work. Why should there be no charge? If your party of eight were to have four different wines, that would be 32 glasses. Polish 32 of your own glasses and see how long it takes...you may be surprised. Be real... time equals money. Restaurants work these costs into their prices. Would you bring your own Steak, ask them to cook it, and expect not to be charged?? Come on.
                    Also, why would it matter if you were collectors? If the wine is good there should be no charge? Expensive wine or cheap wine... it all goes into the same glasses on the same table. My experience has been if you go into a place with one or two bottles, most often they will look the other way on corkage. Several bottles??? Eight people?? Seems a little much to me.
                    but then again I work in a restaurant.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: crunchy

                      Our group is not afraid to pay resonable corkage anytime, we bring our own Reidel's (glasses) always, we pour our own wine(mostly because unless we're dealing with a PROFESSIONAL SOMMELIER) a server will generally "over pour". We tip very heavy always, to help with lost revenue from lack of wine purchased.
                      The problem with Lucques was their DEMAND we buy TWO bottles off there list just to be able to pay corkage for our own wine, also they weren't even slightly flexible about "some" corkage relief. With so many good or better restaurants in LA why be forced to follow ridiculous rules? We ended up having a far superior dinner anyway, somewhere else. Our server was doing a BACK FLIP when he saw what we left for a tip(200-).

                      1. re: russkar

                        Tips don't go to the house, ace.

                        1. re: Jack

                          Tips are for servers, right? ACE? like the four I've got in my hand? The restaurant made a choice(to focus on Corkage instead of food, like they should) and so did we, they lost, we won, GAME OVER!

                          1. re: russkar

                            "Scott, ya just don't get it do ya?"

                            1. re: Cymbiosis

                              A restaurant is a business. Smart business people are able to determine who their regular customers, what they want and are and able to keep them.

                          2. re: Jack

                            I read his comment about making up lost revenue as the money lost by the server in terms of a smaller tip on a (subsequently) smaller check, (without the wine added in).

                        2. re: crunchy

                          Sounds like you work at Lucques. I do understand the need to charge some corkage but your explanation is not acceptable. If you order a bottle, they should waive corkage for a bottle. In addition, many of us collectors sometimes bring our own glasses, and do not require a restaurant to supply new glasses for each bottle we open. Your analysis may go for the first set of glasses, but thats it. The rest is simply explained that the restaurant wants their cut. In addition, it is the waiter who is getting screwed. My group often tips 25 - 35% when we do not pay corkage.


                          1. re: crunchy

                            I think a better argument would be that you have to invest a lot of money in a library of wines and that's undercut if customers choose to bring their own. So, corkage helps defer the inventory cost. But what do I know?

                          2. this is a really old post and incorrect. just made reservation at lucques (which is a terrific place btw) and matt there said there's no such 2 bottle corkage policy.

                            1. If your wines are so great then you shouldn't mind the corkage. So you are saving buckets by bringing it. Simone needs to wash all those glasses.

                              1. Ironically I think Four Oaks and Mimosa have both gone out of business. Unfortunately it's hard to pay the rent when you "look the other way" instead of making money. At least we can be sure the OP appreciates them sacrificing their livelihood so they could save her a little money on wine.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: la2tokyo

                                  The OP was Russkar, a HE who did as much of all ranges of dining as anyone in town.
                                  Anyhow, I think it's a reach to conclude that Four Oaks or Mimosa (or any establishment) sacrafices their livelihood or goes out of business because of a generous corkage policy.
                                  Generous corkage can actually profit a restaurant. A place like Cafe Bizou, Fritto Misto, or other spots with low corkage policies or nights, do well by it. Why do you imagine some fine restaurants like Providence and Josie have corkage nights? Because they are smart enough to recognize that wine collectors who want to BYOB are a segment worth bringing in. Many of us order rather extensively (Russ included).
                                  I am actually surprised that in the currently challenging economy more local restaurants don't try to bring in the corkage crowd.

                                  Fritto Misto
                                  601 Colorado Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                                  Cafe Bizou
                                  91 N Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103

                                  1. re: la2tokyo

                                    Cafe Four Oaks had a successful run that lasted more than 35 years,much, much longer than most restaurants endure. The reasons why they ultimately closed had nothing to do with their occasional decisions to forgo a corkage charge.