Which US states and Canadian provinces have Quebec-style BYOB-only restaurants?
- carswell May 13, 2010 07:44 AM
From a liquor-consumption standpoint, there are three categories of restaurants here in Quebec.
1. Restaurants without a permit. No alcoholic beverages may be consumed at these establishments.
2. Restaurants with a permit to sell alcoholic beverages, aka licensed restaurants. These establishments purchase alcoholic beverages and sell them by the glass, carafe or bottle. With one tiny exception, they are not allowed to offer corkage (i.e. no BYOB).
3. Restaurants with a permit to serve alcoholic beverages, aka BYOs. These establishments cannot sell alcoholic beverages but can serve wine (and, if the restaurant so chooses, beer, sake and cider, though not spirits) that patrons bring. And while they aren't forbidden from charging a corkage fee, next to none do. BYOs are hugely popular here. There are hundreds in Montreal, including some with excellent food and fairly posh decors.
A translator friend is working on the program for a conference to be held in Montreal this summer. In it, she finds the claim that BYOBs are a "concept unique au Québec" (a concept unique to Quebec), which she suspects is untrue.
I know that Massachusetts allows BYOB at unlicensed restaurants. And Ontario opened the door to BYOB a few years ago (not exactly clear on the details, however). So there's her answer, I guess. But I'm also left wondering whether any jurisdiction other than Quebec has a separate licensing category for BYOBs or if that truly is a concept unique to this province. Does anybody know?
New Jersey has many BYOB restaurants. They do not sell wine or other liquor, but will serve it if you bring your own. I believe it is because there is a fixed number of liquor licenses available, so a new restaurant is more or less out of luck unless 'someone dies". I don't recall ever seeing corkage charged at such places.
Actually just found this on gov't website: Unless there is a local ordinance prohibiting it, customers of an unlicensed restaurant may be permitted by the ownership of the restaurant to bring and consume only wine and beer. The restaurant can supply glasses, ice, etc., but may not impose a cover, corkage or service charge. Also, under no circumstances may spirituous liquor be permitted. There may be no advertising whatsoever of the fact that wine or beer may be permitted. Additionally, the owner may not permit wine or beer to be consumed during hours in which the sale of these products is prohibited by licensees in that municipality, nor allow consumption of beer or wine by persons under the age of 21 years or by persons who are actually or apparently drunk or intoxicated. (N.J.S.A. 2C:33-27).
New York City has BYOB restaurants, restaurants that serve beer and wine but no hard liquor, and restaurants that serve alcohol but also allow you to bring your own wine and pay a corkage fee. Here's a list of some of the BYOB places. if you're interested.
P.S. Thanks for your helpful posts on the Quebec board. I just spent a few days in Montreal, and I ate very well.
All three exist, with one exception to what you outlined...Establishments that are licensed to sell have the option whether or not they wish to permit BYO.
If you go to the West Coast Wine Network (www.westcoastwine.net), there is a Sticky thread on one of the boards (either Travel or General) where people have posted BYO lawas of nearly every U.S. state. Don't know about Canadian provinces.
I remember a lovely supper at a byob Asian restaurant in Boston eons ago - I'd have been considered "underage" according to current US law. We just went out and bought some wine. Not up on current Massachusetts rules.
In the US, each state, and sometimes county, sets the rules. For example, in Virginia BYOB is not legal. In DC, only a restaurant with an alcohol license is permitted to allow corkage, and in Maryland some counties permit it with a special license and some prohibit it all together.
Chicago has a fair number of restaurants that do not have liquor licenses and are BYOB. As far as I know there is not a special category of license (as opposed to the normal restaurant license) for BYOB although buying dram shop insurance is a good idea. BYOB is allowed in restaurants that cannot have liquor licenses because of proximity to a school. Spirits may be permitted by a BYOB restaurant if they want to. New restaurants sometimes start out with BYOB until their liquor license comes through. Offhand, I can think of eight BYOB-only restaurants within half a mile of my house and am probably missing some.
Having a special license category for BYOB may be unique or nearly unique to Quebec, but the rest of the BYOB concept is common elsewhere.
Pennsylvania also has many BYOB restaurants. In some cases, a restaurant has not been able to purchase a liquor license because there aren't enough of them allocated to their area. In other cases, the restaurant finds the cost of purchasing a license prohibitively high. A third reason is that there are numerous municipalities across the state that are dry by law, so restaurants within their borders can't serve alcoholic beverages, but may allow customers to bring their own wine or beer. Finally, some places think that BYOB encourages business and makes customers happy.
It is not illegal in PA for customers to bring wine or beer to a restaurant that has a liquor license. However, the establishment is not obligated to let the customer drink it on the premises. Those that allow it often impose a hefty, if not exorbitant, corkage fee for the privilege.
Definitely not unique to Quebec. Philadelphia has a lot (though maybe not hundreds) of excellent spots that are BYOB, and one of my favorite restaurants in New Orleans - located in Louisiana where you can get drive-through daquiris and buy hard liquor in gas stations! - is BYOB, so the concept absolutely exists elsewhere.
Thanks for taking the time to reply. My query isn't about whether BYOB exists elsewhere in North America so much as whether there is another province, state, territory, county, parish, city or town that has a separate licence/permit category for BYOB restaurants. If there isn't, that would mean that the French program's claim isn't completely untrue.
Oh - sorry. Yes, in PA many municipalities have requirements that BYOB establishments obtain a "Club Permit" or other licensing that allows for consumption of alcohol on the restaurant premises. This is different from some other states, like NY, which requires that BYOBs have a liquor licence in order to serve. In Louisiana, I believe the laws are far less restrictive, so I doubt there is a particular regulation for BYOBs.