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Apr 30, 2008 11:13 AM

Corkage fees at BYOB restaurants (split from Washington DC & Baltimore board)

I don't have a lot of tolerance for BYOB places with corkage fees. If you can't serve me, at least have the decency not to charge me to serve myself.

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  1. I agree whole heartedly, I think it's just wrong.

    1. I, being as cheap as I tend to be, don't care for corkage fees but can understand the rationale. They provide glasses and lose the amount you might otherwise spend on a beverage. They also do not have to deal with liquor boards, bureaucracy, and distibutors- thats got to be a huge plus. The question is how much to charge. I think Samos' $2 per person may be adequate. It creates the illusion of value since the wine doesn't show up on your check at the end of the meal. I think it is a win win at the right level.

      10 Replies
      1. re: baltimorejim

        I was just making a comment, and the poobahs may decide to remove or move this digression. But I respectfully disagree. If I'm not drinking alcohol I'll be drinking water -- I don't like diet soda and I'm not wasting calories on anything else. In that case they're providing glasses, ice etc.. and still not making any money, If the waiter opened the bottle and poured the first glass it would influence my tip, but the restaurant didn't earn it.

        The amount they charge for it might influence my decision of whether or not to pay it. I'd be more likely to pay the $2 that Samos charges than $5 at Clementine or the insane $7 at Cafe Gia -- those are high enough to be offensive and possibly enough to keep me out of the place altogether. Even in the case of Samos I'd be more likely to just go to across the street to Zorba's which has better food and a liquor license unless i was desperately in the mood for gyros and wine.

        Even if the corkage fee is low I'd still feel ripped off.

        1. re: JonParker

          I truly understand your point, JonParker, but I do believe that restaurants without liquor licenses have an extra tough time making enough money to stay in business. The restaurant is providing glasses & using power to wash them with your corking fee charge. Your server is opening the wine, & should be tipped on doing so. I sort of equate this to restaurants charging a cake cutting fee. Off premise cakes means longer table time, providing plates, & washing them. Those who consume alcohol, similarly, tend to linger longer at the end of their meal than those that dont. As long as an establishment is upfront about presenting their policy, who is to complain? If you are that offput by a corking fee, you should probably drink water if you are interested enough to try a new restaurant unfortunate enough to have no liquor license. I am sure they would have one if it was up to them. On a final note- as much as I seem to be advocating them, according to my research, it is indeed illegal to charge corking fees at all.

          1. re: kelarry

            Well I did address two of your points previously. It's no more expense for glasses if I stick to water, and I'd be ticked off if I was charged for that. And I'm absolutely in favor of adding to the tip, although I tip a minimum of 20% to start with (and no, I'm not trying to start a discussion about tipping). Cafe Gia has a corkage fee for beer, which I assume applies whether I get a glass or not.

            You may have a point about lingering, although MD now allows you to recork the unused portion of your bottle and take it with you.

            Cutting fees are completely different IMO, because there is no license required to serve dessert. In that case I'm fine with it. I also don't object to corkage in a place that has a wine list -- if I choose to bring in something that I could purchase there, I should be charged for it.

            Not serving alcohol is an inconvenience to the patrons. To charge me for the right to be inconvenienced is wrong, IMO. The restaurant business is competitive, and not having a liquor license is a disadvantage. Corkage fees are no way to compensate for that.

            1. re: JonParker

              I had the pleasure of speaking to the owner of a brand new, wonderful, restaurant and she let me know that was no corkage fee while she had no liquor license but once she got same, she would have to charge a fee to cover the glasses and serving and cleaning up.

              That seemed reasonable to me, especially since I wouldn't pay a corkage fee.

              1. re: JonParker

                Actually I think of BYOB places as a convenience to me. I don't have to pay a premium for moderately priced wines. A premium which may actually exceed a modest corkage fee. (I can tolerate $2 per person- still don't like it since it can mount up with a party of 4 or 6)

                The corkage fee at Samos doesn't seem to have affected their business while I wonder if it has affected Gia's. I have opted to go elsewhere a couple of times after the initiation of the fee. BTW I think Gia's fee may have been reduced to $5- maybe someone can confirm this.

                I am surprised that Kelarry thinks corkage fees may be illegal. Why would that be?

                1. re: baltimorejim

                  Got the info on corking fee being illegal from the Baltimore City Liquor Board on line. This may only apply to places that have liquor licenses, but I found it very interesting as lots of places with liquor licenses allow outside wine & charge corking fees anyway. I suppose the law is just not overly enforced.

                  1. re: kelarry

                    Curious. My new favorite restaurant indicated that she will be charging a corking only 'after' she gets her liquor license.

                    1. re: dolores

                      Dolores, aren't you in NY? I believe the general discussion here has been related to Baltimore/DC. New York's laws are probably very different. As are our corkage fees - I've seen fees of $50 at some places!

                      1. re: LNG212

                        Yes, LNG212, that's why I said 'curious'. I didn't rules and fees for corkage vary from state to state.

                        $50. is outrageous.

                        1. re: LNG212

                          Man, that $50 corkage makes Wine Market seem all that more awesome!

          2. I agree with you, I just can't believe you think Zorba's is better than Samos.

            1 Reply
            1. re: uac1530

              I really do though, but it's not a subject for this board.