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Sep 15, 2008 03:25 PM

Corkage at wine shop/restaurants (split from Washington DC & Baltimore board)

I am a restaurant owner in DC and I have never been to V-no. But it seems to me that the test should be what are the wines offered, what are they charging, and is this lower or higher than the going rate. In most jurisdictions, the question of a space being a wine shop or a restaurant is a legal/license one. If they are a wine shop then they must price their wines for take away. So adding a small corkage may be a great deal. And the cost of opening a bottle and lettting a customer drink it out of glass is not zero. My wineglasses cost about $3 per and for the reserve wine, about $7. They break just from usuage. A small business needs to make up its costs somehow, and charging just the folk who drink in for that part of the cost of business just matches costs to the source of those costs.

Given how most restaurants treat their customers when it comes to wine pricing, places that have lower markups and make interesting wines affordable need support. There are restaurants in downtown DC for example, sell widely available wines by the glass for 5 times their wholesale in many cases. I have experienced the same in Baltimore.

Of course, if their "retail" prices are high to begin with, there is no bargain involved. But the only way to judge is to go there, since they seem to have no website (or at least, Googling for a minute or two did not show one). It would be great for V-no to either get their wines and prices on a website so we can tell, or for someone who is in the wine business or is a wine hobbyist to go there and report back in general terms on what they are offering and for how much.

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  1. Well I agree with you. I will point out that the original post on this practice didn't make it clear that they were doing retail wine a la Wine Market. I'm not a wine guy -- I'm happy if it doesn't remove my stomach lining.

    I've got to say though, the name V-no makes it sound like they hate wine. Worst. Name. Ever.

    12 Replies
    1. re: JonParker

      I understand and appreciate the explanation, but doesn't the shop in question make money, on a whole, if people drink their wine there. I would think that by not charging a corkage fee, people could spend more on food to go with, and keep folks around longer meaning potentially more purchases.

      I would think that I wine store/bar would try to encourage drinking in, rather than a customer taking her money for food elsewhere....

      1. re: baltoellen

        It's a weird concept, but as value to the consumer goes it's ok with me. At least it's not a BYOB place charging corkage, which i consider completely unacceptable.

        1. re: baltoellen

          This attitude is very prehistoric. Running a dishwasher to clean glasses costs money in addition to the cost of providing/replacing glassware. This corking fee is no different then the common practice of cake cutting fees where restaurants charge for washing dishes, and providing the space and service to make sure their guests are happy during their stay. Most places in major cities nation wide play by these rules.

          1. re: hawaiigrl2003

            If I disagreed with you, I wouldn't use the term prehistoric to characterize your views. And, I wasn't aware of wine bar "rules." I actually think corkage fees, in this case, are petty, counterproductive, and just overall sucky.

            1. re: baltoellen

              Once again, is the point the final cost of the wine? If Chateau Le Pew is $50 a bottle there with a $7 corkage and it is $75 somewhere else with no corkage, where do you want to go drink it, other things being equal? I haven't reviewed their pricing structure, but to rule out a place because of it having a corkage policy over retail without knowing how the overall pricing stacks up seems to be very arbitrary. What about a restaurant that prices its wines at retail plus $X? Would you rule this out? Its the same idea. How about trying it first before judging it?

              1. re: deangold

                Exactly. Because of the "outrage", this establishment should hike up their prices to cover the cost of simple minded people opposing a small corking fee. Tho I have never been to V-no, and have no opinion about the name, I honestly feel they should raise costs, lose corking fees, and in the process eliminate all the whiners that act like a business has no right to be business minded because it's Fells Point/Baltimore and not another respectable US city. That seems to be what the people of Baltimore want to embrace in a local business.

                1. re: hawaiigrl2003

                  Maybe this view is "prehistoric", too, but I would consider "simple-minded" people to be those who over-generalize an entire city, pay any fees without question so they don't think they look "cheap" and because "everywhere else does it" and because it's "close to DC" while deriding those who do question fees. But hey, I'm just a simple tightwad Baltimoron who wants to see our eating and drinking establishments fail.

                  If the owners feel they can make up the revenue lost from people who do not want to pay fees by charging fees to people who don't mind them or want to feel like they're in a more cosmopolitan city, that's just fine. No one is denying the right to charge these fees as part of their business model. Just as people have the right to disagree with the fees and not patronize such businesses. And others have the right to insult those people on the Internet.

                  It is my opinion that places like V-NO generate a lot of business from people who would not be customers if they were unable to drink on-site. If their plan to retain these customers is to hit them with fees, that's ok. It just doesn't work for me.

                  If I was forced to choose between paying $75 or $50 with a $7 corkage, all things being equal, I would take the $50+7. But before doing either of those, I would buy the bottle for $50 and drink it at home if they were going to nickel and dime me.

                  If two wine bars had the same bottle for the same price and one charged a corkage fee and the other did not, all other things being equal, which would you choose?

                  1. re: Chowtimore

                    Well, said. You know, the terribly named V-NO isn't the only game in town. There are other places to buy wine. Places that even may have a better selection and better pricing.

                    Really, if I were going to buy a $50 bottle of wine (I'm not. Just another outraged, cheap, prehistoric, tacky, really close to DC but hopelessly parochial Baltimoron here too), I would, honestly, laugh at being so nickle and dimed, and head elsewhere.

                    1. re: baltoellen

                      You just don't seem to get it. You don't have to drink the wine on premises. If you're so opposed to being "nickel and dimed" you can take your wine home without paying the corkage fee.

                      They are offering a service for a nominal fee. They provide space, glassware, and service. Also, they give up valuable retail space and must have a different liqueur license for open bottles.

                      As for choosing between bars with or without a corkage fee, its really simple. You either pay retail plus $7, or you pay retail x2. You don't get to simply pay retail at a bar. I don't see anyone complaining that their light beer is marked up.

                      Hawaiigrl2003 - This isn't the place to find out about wine in Baltimore, as this board is heavily skewed towards pub grub. Most posters recoil at the thought of spending more than $20 on a bottle of wine.

                  2. re: hawaiigrl2003

                    Hey hawaiigrl, lay off the Baltimore bashing, ok? It is, to use your word, tacky, and seriously undermines any credibility you would otherwise have. Make your argument without resorting to ad hominem attacks and people might be more inclined to listen.

                    1. re: charmedgirl

                      ...Just a little disappointed in my colleagues.

                  3. re: deangold

                    Or, I find another place to buy my wine....

          2. I've never been to V-no, but I HAVE been to D-no (I'm hilarious!).

            Love your spot, Dean, even though I live hundreds of miles away.

            I'm so envious of the corkage abilities outside of New England.

            1. The reason restaurants charge to open a bottle on premise that was purchased at retail is because of the money they need to make for the space taken up. Each table needs to generate a certain amount of money to cover the bills. You have to remember, someone could buy 12 bottles of wine in 5 minutes at a retail store. There is considerably more effort and time involved in 12 bottles of wine being sold at a restaurant.

              1. Would the people who are whining about it complain if it were the other way around?

                Instead of $50 + $7 corkage, it'd be $57 with a $7 discount if you get it to-go?

                Would you rather it were $57 either way?

                2 Replies
                1. re: xanadude

                  I've mulled this over many times - having been charged a wine shops anywhere from $6-$17 to cork a bottle purchased in house. Whether it's justified depends upon a couple of factors: 1. how much service are you actually getting? If a server is opening, pouring for tasting, refilling glasses, bringing appropriate glasses for each bottle, etc the fee is worth it for the labor and overall experience. If all they do is cork it and run, I would take my business elsewhere is the corkage fee is more than a couple of dollars. 2. How is the fee determined? If it's a flat fee (say $17, as I once experienced) and I'm only consuming a $25 bottle of wine, forget it. If it's a sliding scale...say a percentage up to a certain dollar amount, I'd be more apt to stick around for the experience. But when one considers labor, table space, glasses, etc, a nominal corkage fee is fine with me.

                  1. re: jdinsf

                    Very well articulated. I agree that a nomial corkage fee at a wine store that has a great selection and great retail prices is worth. I understand that I'm taking up real estate and bills need to get paid. People who don't understand liquor markups don't seem to complain about the $7 they are charged for a 50 cent beer!

                2. The original comment has been removed