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Anyone else starting to see more free corkage?

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We noticed that one of our regular date night restaurants has recently expanded free corkage from no nights (over 3 months ago) to Sunday night ( 3 months ago) to Sunday through Thursday nights ( a few weeks ago). I am sure this is a reaction to the economic conditions here in SOCAL.

Anyone else noticing this trend in their area?

Another question - couldn't the restuarants do better by just offering half price wine nights given the general markup on wine?

We will probably take advantage of the free corkage, but wine at half the restuarant's usual price (still above retail and wholesale) would be just as interesting to us.

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  1. One of my favorite places here in DC just added Wednesday (previously it was Tues and Thrus) to the free corkage nights. The owner said it has really helped business.

    I think the difference between offering corkage and half price wine has more to do with local laws etc. Besides, I think that if someone brings wine, they are more likely to spend a little more on dinner as opposed to when they buy the wine from the list, even at half price.

    8 Replies
    1. re: dinwiddie

      I think your observation (free corkage v. half-price) is spot on. That said, I see more half-price specials than free corkage . . .

      1. re: zin1953

        I see quite a few places offering half price specials on certain days (normally Tuesday for some reason) but I also note that those places do not have that interesting of a wine list. I'd think that they are probably trying to bring in the folks who wouldn't normally buy a bottle of wine with dinner or those who tend to look for the least expensive bottle. I doubt that they are of much interest to the serious wine geek.

        As I have noted before in threads, in DC only restaurants with an alcohol license are allowed to offer corkage at all. That means that some restaurants with some excellent wine lists also have corkage policies. I think that these restaurants, especially some of the mid to high end places are offering more free or reduced corkage to a greater extent than they used to because of the economy. But that is just a conjecture, I have no empirical evidence.

      2. re: dinwiddie

        On a slightly more limited note, free corkage would have greater appeal to the wine afficionados holding older vintages that are less likely to be found on a wine list of a resto offering 50% off pricing. I'd certainly have a greater anticipation for a dinner out if I were bringing a '99 Grgich cab than if I were ordering an '04 Grgich for 50% off.

        And if I'm bringing in older vintages that are presumably supposed to be drinking better than their newer brethren, I'm certainly going to order "better" (or simply, more) food to play off of that. I suspect there are plenty of consumers who would do the same if they were bringing in their own bottles.

        1. re: Eugene Park

          I agree, corkage is probably of most interest to those who collect wine than to those who do not. I certainly avail myself of it in order to be able to drink older/rarer wines from my cellar rather than to save money.

        2. re: dinwiddie

          I'll be visiting DC next week, and I was curious about byob options. Could you let me know the name of this Tues--Thurs free corkage restaurant (and any others you might recommend)? Thanks!

          1. re: Boswell

            The restaurant in question is Dino. It is a short block from the Cleveland Park METRO stop (Red Line) on Connecticut Ave.

            DC has a vibrant corkage scene. Most charge about $20 (give or take $5) and some have free corkage on certain nights. Lavandeau (on the same block as Dino) has free corkage on Monday nights.

            Other places I've been to and like include:

            Charlie Palmer (limit two U.S. wines with no corkage fee
            Old Ebbitt Grill
            Mendocino Grill
            Equinox
            Kaz Sushi Bistro
            Chef Geoff's
            Bistro du Coin
            DC Coast
            Zaytinya
            Palena (one of the best restaurants in the city)
            Bistro Bis
            Taberna del Alabardero
            Tosca
            701
            Kinkeads

            For a dated (several of the places listed are not around anymore), but fairly extensive list of places in DC that offer corkage, go to

            http://wideworldofwines.com/corkage.php

            Some of these restaurants offer corkage on certain nights, others don't. As always, call and ask first.

            1. re: dinwiddie

              Thanks, that's very helpful!

          2. re: dinwiddie

            I might add that a group of us were there a couple of weeks ago to avail ourselves of the free corkage and get together to share some wines from our respective cellars. As it turned out, we were one of four tables doing the same thing. Since most of us knew at least one person from the other groups it made for a lot of walking back and forth between the tables, glasses and bottles in hand to share tastes. (I got to taste some nice old Barolos that were being featured at one of the other tables.)

          3. Does anyone know how this corkage stuff is practiced in different European countries? I heard that in some it is simply not welcomed at all, you do NOT bring your own wine period.

            1. I have not, but then I seldom am looking. Last time I requested BYOW, was in Maui and I was REJECTED! Though my wines were not even close to being on their list (a DRC Burg and a Le Montrachet), they claimed that there was no BYOW in the county of Maui.

              Hunt

              2 Replies
              1. re: Bill Hunt

                This is true about Maui. No BYO. However, the other islands have different laws.

                1. re: baron45

                  It is not unusual for things to go county by county (or in Hawaii's case, Island by Island) Here in Maryland BYO is permitted in certain places, but not in Montgomery County.

                  In the old days in Virginia, counties and cities decided whether they would be "dry" or not. this made for an interesting patchwork where you could drink in one city, and not be allowed to drink in the county right next door. Of course, technically, corkage is illegal in VA unless it is in a private club.

              2. Lots more free corkage in Napa Valley. More restos offering free corkage all the time, and more restos offering free corkage on certain days, usually Monday through Thursday.
                I'm loving it.

                Part of this, of course, is because wine sales are down 35-40% in the valley, tourism is down, and locals are not dining out as much.

                1. I'm not seeing any change in New York City. In fact there may be fewer places. The State Liquor Authority has started cracking down on restaurants whose license is pending that allow BYOB. In NY BYOB is technically illegal unless you're licensed to sell wine. However, they seem to turn a blind eye to places that are unliencsed and aren't applying for a license.