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Best BYOB Restaurants in SF

When I lived in Chicago, there were many free BYOB restaurants in the city. I have yet to find any in my current city of San Francisco. So I am reaching out to my fellow chowhounds if they have any suggestions...

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  1. Liquor laws are different here. If a restaurant wants to allow customers to drink their own wine, the owner needs to go to the considerable trouble and expense of getting a license anyway, so might as well sell wine.

    I think Jai Yun doesn't charge. Here's a topic on places that have free or low corkage.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/492059

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Since Jai Yun moved they have been charging corkage.

    2. Robert's right: "BYOB restaurants" are a product of very different liquor laws. To clarify what Robert said, in California it is illegal to for alcohol to be consumed on the premises unless the premises has a license. If they have a license, they're going to want to sell their own alcohol, especially since that's usually the most profitable portion of restaurant sales. Some places that are unlicensed do allow people to bring in their own. I suspect that the enforcement people have better things to do than chase down everyone who takes a beer to some Mom and Pop joint.

      If you really want to bring your own, you should keep an eye out for places that have free or reduced corkage nights or free or reduced corkage for certain types of wine. There have been some threads in the past, but specials like that tend to change frequently, so it would be better to start a new one.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        >>If they have a license, they're going to want to sell their own alcohol, especially since that's usually the most profitable portion of restaurant sales.

        It's not simply profitability, the cost of the license for a city like San Francisco is really high. There would be no point in getting the license and then having free BYOB, it would put a restaurant behind instantly.

        1. re: realspear

          The cost of an on-sale beer and wine license for a bona fide restaurant is on the order ot $300 annually, which is hardly "really high." Plenty (probably a majority) of hole-in-the-wall mom and pop shops have beer and wine licenses.

          1. re: Xiao Yang

            It's $339 a year. Udupi Palace in Berkeley has a license but doesn't sell alcohol.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              OK, $339 a year. That's 93 cents a day. If that's enough to sink a restaurant, as realspear suggests, we're talking about a pretty marginal business to begin with.

              1. re: Xiao Yang

                It's not a huge expense, but once a restaurant owner has a license, selling beer and wine is an easy way to increase profits.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I don't dispute that, but it's not really the point. As the OP noted, Chicago has many free BYOB restaurants, so they are presumably viable (and popular). It probably wouldn't put them under to have to spend an extra 93 cents a day for the privilege of letting their diners bring their own wine. Put another way, the cost of a beer and wine license shouldn't deter anyone from trying out a free BYOB model in San Francisco.

                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                    The key difference is that it's difficult to get a liquor license in Chicago, and in some locations it's impossible. If it were as easy as it is in SF, the BYOB thing might not exist.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Right. BYOB restaurants are also big in Philadelphia, because Pennsylvania has a quota on liquor licenses, only so many for each county depending on the population. Sometimes you literally have to wait for someone to die to get a liquor license. You can't sell people wine, so you're not losing anything by letting them bring their own.

                      Where it's not particularly difficult or expensive to get a license, then why not get one. And once you have one, there's no more reason to let someone bring their own wine than there is to let them bring their own food.

                2. re: Xiao Yang

                  I'm sure there are other costs associated with getting a liquor license, not the least of which is the increase in the costs for the insurance of the restaurant.

        2. Lots of SF restaurants allow BYOB, but it's best to call or check their websites first. Most will charge a corkage fee. Last time I checked, Houstons had free corkage.

          3 Replies
            1. re: baron45

              A restaurant that charges corkage is not the same as a BYOB, as they exist in other states.

              1. re: baron45

                The only restaurant with a liquor license I've heard of that wouldn't let customers BYOB was Pizzeria Delfina, but they dropped that policy, now they charge $15 corkage.

              2. utopia cafe, waverly pl. in chinatown charges $5.

                1. Fish & Farm charges only a $5 corkage if you bring a California wine.

                  1. Indigo currently does not charge a corkage fee -- its is one of the few even modestly upscale places in the City that does not. I have generally enjoyed the food there -- it can be a bit uneven but the last meal I had there was excellent. The service is quite good so it is a good choice for pre-opera/symphony meal.

                    -----
                    Indigo Restaurant
                    687 McAllister St., San Francisco, CA 94102

                    1. Blue Plate is currently waiving the corkage fee on Tues. nights. Not sure how long it will last; we tried it a couple of weeks ago.

                      1. I'm throwing out the obligatory comment that Houston's has no corkage fee.