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May 31, 2009 07:00 PM

Alba's announces $7.00 corkage fee

Alba's in Malvern has just sent out an email saying they now have a liquor license (and will also maintain a $7 corkage fee for BYOW). New wine offerings will apparently focus on Italian varietals (Piemonte) and craft beers. I hope this doesn't destroy the restaurant's charm and focus. Plus, with so many BYOBs, I am going to have a difficult time justifying paying this fee--relatively small as it is. Isn't providing decent wine ware just a part of doing business? Sigh . . .

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  1. What you have to realize is that Alba is no longer a BYOB in the traditional sense. They now have a liquor license. They allow you to still bring your own bottle as a service and an added bonus to their guests who have joined them in the past. I think a $7 corkage fee is a gift. People don’t realize what an investment a liquor license is. You have the cost of the license itself, the inventory to stock the list, and all the insurance the state requires you to pay in case some idiot gets drunk at your restaurant, kills someone in a car crash on the way home and then sues you for letting them drink so much. (that’s a whole other story about personal responsibility) The point is, it’s a huge expense, which is why MOST restaurants don’t even allow you to bring your own bottle if they sell wine. Every bottle you bring is one you don’t buy from the restaurant, which basically causes them to lose revenue. They could sell your seat to someone who would buy wine from them. It’s not about being greedy, it’s about covering their costs and staying in business.

    And as far as a corkage fee at a true BYOB… if they have great stemware ie. proper glasses for red, white, champagne, and dessert wine… not to mention decanters, I don’t mind paying a dollar or two. I’ve been to some byob's where they serve all their wine in glasses bought for $2 each at IKEA. I don’t want to drink my good wine out of a little dixe cup sized wine glass. Most people recognize this for the service it is and don’t complain about it. What’s a few extra dollars for a nice evening? People say restaurants are petty for charging a corkage… I say the people who gripe about it are cheap. It’s a hard business with not much return for your work (traditionally 5% profit on a well run business). Lucky for all of us that there are many choices out there for everyone… those of us discriminating and those of us not.

    5 Replies
    1. re: sanfrantransplant

      This is Malvern--not San Francisco or New York, etc. where corkage fees are more common and in many cases outrageously overpriced. Sorry, buddy, but am I really supposed to feel bad and sorry for a restaurant that has to supply basic stemware for its guests? Really? I've been to Alba's numerous times ( a terrific little restaurant but not a gourmet nirvana) and I've known personnel there over the years and the typical wine brought in by customers does not require top-of-the-line stemware and decanting. I understand business and they are free to do as they please but so are we as customers. And I couldn't care less about $7.00--but corkage fees (like paying for Internet news) may be a thing of the future, but it's not standard yet in these parts. See this link for a list of great restaurants that DO NOT have corkage fees.

      By the way, if a restaurant cannot survive without wine sales, then how do restaurants that do not have a liquor license make it? Perhaps cutting or lowering corkage fees might bring in enough business in food sales to make up the difference--plus the word would certainly spread that you don't have to pay a fortune for a good night out. And a new focus on craft beer? What's that all about?

      1. re: stormicans

        This restaurant has a liquor license so I don't understand why you feel that you should be able to bring in your own wine without a corkage fee. $7 for corkage is incredibly cheap.

        Unless I'm misreading something. It's late, so that's entirely possible.

        1. re: stormicans

          I also am not sure what your problem is. Alba got a liquor license, they're no longer a BYO. Comparing them to the BYOBs on that list you linked to is comparing apples and oranges. Most places that sell wine don't allow BYO at all!

          1. re: Buckethead

            I'm with a lot of others here, it seems - a corkage fee makes sense if the place has a license.
            I'm not a big fan of the fee at a real BYO... I know it exists, but it does rub me the wrong way.

        2. re: sanfrantransplant

          While I agree that it's not unreasonable for a restaurant with a liquor license to charge a $7 corkage fee, don't fret about "all the insurance the state requires you to pay in case some idiot gets drunk." Unfortunately, Pennsylvania does not require that liquor licensees carry Dram Shop insurance and many bars and restaurants are uninsured. As a result, these places often escape liability for the harm caused by the drunks off of whom they have prospered.

        3. Could be worse...
          State of California if they have no liquor license there is no BYO. Then the most expensive restaurant in Los Angeles Ursawa charges $50/bottle corkage.

          1. BYOB are having a very difficult time surviving. It's obvious to everyone the markup on alcohol, that's why restaurants make the investment in a liquor license.

            I'm curious, what percentage does everyone think a well run restaurant makes in net profit?

            10 Replies
            1. re: john237

              Generally, a restaurant should hope for about 4%-7% pre-tax profit margin. 7% usually being a limited service (take-out, no waiters, fast food) restaurant.

              That's why they mark up liquor so's the single easiest way to increase profits.

              1. re: GreaseFire

                It's also stealing money! Just like charging $8 for a bottle of San Pellegrino that they buy at Costco for $13/case. I have relatives that own 4 star restaurants in the NY metro area that charge 2 1/2 times cost for a full bottle and the bottle cost for a glass. They make a ton of money. And they make it primarily on their food! Charge me what you want for the food - I'm paying for the creativity and the chef's experience and quality ingredients, but don't gouge me for wine and water. By the way, I'd have no problem paying a $7 corkage fee if I can save $75 by bringing my own $50 bottle of wine!

                1. re: bucksguy14

                  It's not even remotely "stealing" money any more than it is to claim that a meal shouldn't cost more than a certain percentage of the food costs + 100%.

                  If you don't like the fact that restaurants have to pay for staff, utilities, rent, food, liquor license, etc, eat at home. Otherwise, you're just whining.

                  1. re: Boognish

                    I understand everything about the costs a restaurant has regarding it's business. I think you missed my point - I have no problem with whatever a restaurant wants to charge for their food - if it's good enough, people will pay for it, including me. What I do have a problem with is being asked to pay 3-5 times the cost of wine and water. Exactly what is the value-added that justifies that increase? There isn't any!

                    1. re: bucksguy14

                      I'll never defend the markups of the water or the wine......but I think "stealing" is the wrong word. If we choose their restaurant and order their overpriced Evian, then they can charge what they want. We have the ability to go elsewhere. I go to one grocery store instead of another because the same product is cheaper. Sure the markup on water is ridiculous, but I've never had a restaurant turn down a request for free tap-water.

                      What's the added-value of their Pelligrino? It's the same as anything else the restaurant serves you: Someone ELSE drove to get it/paid for it's delivery, found a place to stock it, refrigerated it, inventoried it, rotated it, encountered a loss on it (bad bottles, broken bottles, theft), threw it out when the crazy customer said it was "bad", etc.. Do these costs equal the markup....of course not, but they exist.

                      Added value for wine: again, storage ain't cheap if done right, purchase, delivery, paying someone who has a clue how to buy/ store/ rotate/ promote, and educate their servers about it. Don't think that there are people out there who return their $100 bottle of Jordan because they (incorrectly) believe it's turned? Think again, they're out there in droves. Printing a wine list, training servers proper wine service, purchase of wine keys, decanters, ice buckets, quality stemware. Again, it'll never equal the markup...but these places are in business to make money.

            's not changing around here anytime soon.

                      1. re: GreaseFire

                        and the wine mark up is further complicated by the fact that PA does not discount wine and spirits to restaurants or offer any sort of case discount. So the bottle of wine that you pay $30 for, they pay $30 for - that's not the case in most other states

                        1. re: GreaseFire

                          As I said in my first reply, I have relatives in highly successful restaurants that make a ton of money. I've worked in those restaurants on occasion. I know all about what their costs are, how things "walk away", how diners try to get a free meal after eating 80% of their entree, how a wine tastes bad after they've consumed more than 1/2 the bottle, etc. etc. Not one of these owners feel badly about charging up to $50 for what they consider to be an extremely creative, well-cooked, well-presented dish. And, not one of these owners charges more than 2 1/2 times the cost of a bottle, regardless of what state we're talking about, PA included. I guess the answer to this little debate that seems to have really lit a fire under some people (maybe you're an owner who does a high markup?) is that you say tomato and I say tomahto. Let's call a truce, we're obviously not going to reach an agreement.

                          1. re: bucksguy14

                            Above, you said they charge the bottle cost for a glass, that's a 500% markup, not 250%.

                            1. re: Buckethead

                              I though I called a cease-fire on this? You're making an uninformed assumption - they pour 4 glasses from the bottle. If the bottle costs $10, they're getting $40. That's 400%. You're correct it's higher than the bottle markup.

                              1. re: Buckethead

                                Bad math on my part - that would be a 300% markup on 4 glasses from a $10 bottle!

                2. Alba's has just purchased its liquor license, which everyone knows is expensive. But wait: I wonder where they got the money to now afford that license. Maybe they made money from selling quality food and providing good service over the years. Just a thought . . . By the way, I'll patronize restaurants with what I perceive as value (corkage fee or no corkage fee). Quite honestly, I'll start worrying about a restaurant's profits when they start worrying about mine.

                  1. Alba's corkage fee is now $10.00, up from $7.00 FYI

                    1 Reply
                    1. I'm long over it; just reporting the facts, pal. I'll comment as I please--deal with it . . .