HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >

Best BYOB Restaurants in SF

andyorange Apr 10, 2009 04:17 PM

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...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Robert Lauriston RE: andyorange Apr 10, 2009 05:03 PM

    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.


    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston
      Paul H RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 10, 2009 05:15 PM

      Since Jai Yun moved they have been charging corkage.

    2. Ruth Lafler RE: andyorange Apr 10, 2009 05:23 PM

      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
        realspear RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 10, 2009 06:19 PM

        >>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
          Xiao Yang RE: realspear Apr 10, 2009 10:31 PM

          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
            Robert Lauriston RE: Xiao Yang Apr 11, 2009 10:31 AM

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

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              Xiao Yang RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 11, 2009 04:13 PM

              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
                Robert Lauriston RE: Xiao Yang Apr 11, 2009 04:33 PM

                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
                  Xiao Yang RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 12, 2009 04:04 AM

                  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
                    Robert Lauriston RE: Xiao Yang Apr 12, 2009 08:54 AM

                    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
                      Ruth Lafler RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 12, 2009 10:58 PM

                      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
                  skwid RE: Xiao Yang Apr 13, 2009 01:05 PM

                  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. baron45 RE: andyorange Apr 10, 2009 09:11 PM

          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
            wally RE: baron45 Apr 10, 2009 09:57 PM

            as noted on the RL post link.

            1. re: baron45
              Ruth Lafler RE: baron45 Apr 10, 2009 10:27 PM

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

              1. re: baron45
                Robert Lauriston RE: baron45 Apr 11, 2009 10:29 AM

                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. moto RE: andyorange Apr 10, 2009 10:08 PM

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

                1. b
                  bernalman RE: andyorange Apr 10, 2009 11:24 PM

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

                  1. s
                    SFDude RE: andyorange Apr 11, 2009 09:44 PM

                    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. k
                      katielp RE: andyorange Apr 12, 2009 09:39 PM

                      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. b
                        Bprecie RE: andyorange Apr 13, 2009 01:41 AM

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

                        Show Hidden Posts