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Jan 25, 2011 10:05 AM

Corkage fees

My neighbor has a very good wine cellar. When chatting to him yesterday, I asked him whether he ever took some of his own wines to restaurants which allow you to do this. He relied that he hadn't as he'd heard that corkage charges could be around $40-50 a bottle. Is this true.?Are there any "good" restaurants which charge less? I said I'd pass on to him any replies I get here so any suggestions would be much appreciated. Who knows, I might get invited to join him!

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  1. Splendido had no-corkage on... Monday? I think it was. Not sure if they're still doing this.
    Globe is $20
    hmn... there was a thread recently on this. Makes me want to build a site...

    88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

    7 Replies
    1. re: jlunar

      Splendido's "no corkage" is on Mon, Tues, and Wed nights when sitting at their bar ... there really should be a section in each restaurant's listing on DineTO, etc. to highlight corkage ...

      88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

      1. re: CocoTO

        I was at Splendido last Friday - corkage at a 'regular' table (not the bar) was $30. I have the bill to prove it!

        88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

      2. re: jlunar

        Yes, there was a thread on this recently. And what we learned, as I recall, was that corkage fees - if a restaurant has them at all - can range from $0 to about $50. And the only way to find out who's charging what corkage on which nights is to call the restaurant in advance or check its web site. The $0 corkage award goes Paese, a pretty good Italian spot on north Bathurst St., which charges no corkage on any night except Saturday (and seems to make up for the loss of revenue with slighter higher food prices). Nevertheless, a helluva deal if you live up that way (slightly north of Wilson Ave.), abhor wine markups in restaurants, and enjoy decent Italian nosh. Most corkage fees elsewhere seem to be between $10 and $25. Generally, the fancier the resto - and the higher its wine list markups - the higher the corkage fee.

        1. re: jlunar

          If you eat at GLOBE on a Sunday, wines from the regular wine list are 1/2 price. That makes them almost the same cost they would be if you purchased them at the LCBO or agent.

          1. re: foodyDudey

            Mammina's restaurant at 6 Wellesley Street West has decent food (southern Italian) and an across-the-board $3 mark-up on all their wines

            1. re: foodyDudey

              Not almost the same cost. Looking at the Globe wine list, the Monte Zovo Ripasso listed at $51 can be found at LCBO for $18. So even at 1/2 price, it's $25 or still about 40% higher cost than LCBO. Almost all restaurants markup at leeast 250% and so with few exceptions it's always better to BYO and pay the corkage if the restuarnt allows it.

              1. re: syoung

                Based on a wine I bought one Sunday : 04 Mosaic, Lipscomb and Tobella (Priorat, Spain)which is $86 normally and $43 at 50% off I thought they were all priced the same way. That one is $39 at Vintages

                And Cuvée Catherine Brut Rosé, Henry of Pelham is $61 regularly, but 31.50 on Sunday, and costs $30 at the LCBO

          2. Just phone and ask.
            I think Jacobs & Co was $30 which was very reasonable in light of the wine I took and the excellent glasses and service we received.
            If a restaurant wanted $50 I would forever strike the place off my list on the grounds that the owner has acute cranial rectosis and is thereby a health hazard.

            Jacobs & Co
            12 Brant Street, Toronto, ON M5V 2M1, CA

            7 Replies
            1. re: sumdumgoy

              I don't have anything to add here, I just want to applaud the use of the phrase, "acute cranial rectosis." Bravo.

              1. re: sumdumgoy

                Actually, $50 is BETTER than not offering the option to BYOW - isn't that effectively an 'infinite corkage charge'? (side note: it costs ZERO, except time, to fill out the forms - and every licensed premise is eligible; it's just an endorsement to the regular license).

                Or will you also boycott any restos that DON'T allow BYOB?

                Now there's a campaign I could get behind.

                1. re: estufarian

                  Agree 100% ! I'm tending these days to only go to restaurant that offer BYOW.

                  Sumdurngoy, any restaurant that offers $50 corkage is most probably (can't think of even one exception) marking up their wines AT LEAST 300%. The now defunct Susur comes to mind. If you care at all about wine, you're still way better off BYOing and paying the $50 bucks.

                  1. re: estufarian

                    On my own nickle I do not go to restos that do not offer BYO.
                    I consider $50 BYO gouging of outrageous proportion as I do 300% markups particularly on wine which costs the licencee more than $10 and remember the resto pays about 18% less than you and I for wine.

                    1. re: sumdumgoy

                      Like sumdumgoy, I try to patronize restos that offer BYOW and keep their corkage fees reasonable - I get twitchy when it's more than $15 - but it's not always possible. In which case, I'll order a glass or half-liter of the house plonk, just to have something to wash down the nosh with. The markup on such acceptable low-cost wines seems to be quadruple the LCBO price. It's about triple (or more) for higher-priced wines, which I won't sit still for anywhere but in some top-level restos with a proper wine list, wine cellar and sommelier service.

                      What irks me no end are mid- and even low-level restos that charge huge markups, similar to top-end spots, for just trucking in the wines, stacking them around the bar - and then simply uncorking them when they're ordered. In my view, this does not merit a triple markup. With some exceptions, I have a hazy rule of thumb for deciding if a wine list is hilariously overpriced. It's the $15 or so LCBO price for Segura Viudas, a decent Spanish sparkling wine that a lot of restos carry in their champagne lineup. The top-level Scaramouche charges $40 for Segura Viudas, justified given the care this first-class joint gives to its wine service. Any spot that charges more than Scaramouche never gets a return visit from me, no matter how good, bad or indifferent -mostly indifferent - the food quality is. I can understand high markups on menu items - after all, there is, presumably, talent in the kitchen transforming basic ingredients into edible delights - but there's precious little talent needed to put together a basic wine list often kept at improper temperatures.

                      I'm intrigued to learn - from sumdumgoy - that restos pay less for their wine than the rest of us do. I was always under the impression that the LCBO charged everyone the same, no matter what your line of work. At least, that's what several restaurateurs have told me with a straight face. If sumdumgoy is correct, then resto markups are even higher than I thought. As for private wine imports featured on some lists, I'm very, very wary. Because I never know what the restaurant has paid for these otherwise-unavailable wines, I strongly suspect the markups are higher still. How nice it would be if we could all be transported to Quebec around dinner time, where most good BYOW restos don't charge a corkage fee at all, and are content to make their money on the food alone.

                      1. re: juno

                        In simple terms, restaurants do not pay the HST. HST is (theorectically) charged at the point of final purchase i.e. it is charged on the amount the restaurant sells it to you.
                        So indeed restaurants pay a 'licensee price' equivalent to a deduction of the HST.
                        If you look at the websites for agents 'Private Imports' you will often see both prices.

                        Legally GST must be charged separately - but The LCBO doesn't seem to follow that law itself - even the store receipts don't show the amount separately (also required by law). However, not worth a lawsuit as the 'tax' itself is legal and even if the suit is successful, the worst case would be a 'fine' to LCBO - which would be paid to the government!!!!

                        It also allows the LCBO to 'include the HST' in the 'revenues it has returned to Government' (often misdescribed as profit) - artificially inflating the numbers I (and probably you) regularly see reported in Government publications - and then are uncritically picked up by the Press.

                  2. re: sumdumgoy

                    Jacobs and Co is $40. I was there a few weeks ago.

                  3. If more restaurants would adopt reasonable pricing practices, there generally wouldn't be any need for corkage fees and BYOW. For example, Le Paradis marks their wines up about $15 a bottle, so there are plenty of interesting choices on their wine list at $35 or under. As a result, we usually order a bottle of wine there with dinner. I don't care how deep a restaurant's wine cellar is or how many sommeliers they have, they should be able to maintain a basic 30 bottle list with reasonable markups. More value-conscious diners would be attracted to the restaurant and buy wines from this list ensuring high turnover/low holding cost. The restaurant would also win by gaining the public perception of being more "wine-friendly" and promoting the lifestyle rather than gouging.

                    The exception of course, is if you are bringing a special bottle from your own collection to enjoy and are willing to pay the corkage:)

                    Le Paradis
                    166 Bedford Road, Toronto, ON M5R 2K9, CA

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: bogie

                      FYI: Le Paradis' markup is 100% . Extremely reasonable and rare. And while I do occasionally like to bring special bottles from my cellar, I certainly wouldn't ban a restaurant from my list if it didn't allow BYOW-it really depends on the restaurant's pricepoint.

                      1. re: bogie

                        Speaking of reasonable markup, I found Le Rossignol to have a lot of choices under $45. Not sure what the markup in the end was, but they can't have all been $15 bottles...

                      2. What is general etiquette around selecting a bottle to bring to spots that allow BYOW? I've heard that it's bad taste to bring a bottle the restaurant already cellars. Should it be a "special" bottle, or at least one of reasonable quality/price? Would I get a dirty look for bringing a widely available $20 bottle of some VQA variety?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Skeets

                          Good question, glad you brought this up actually. I would agree that it's in bad taste to bring a bottle currently on a restaurant's list. I think the bottle should be special (which doesn't necessarily imply expensive)-whether old, or perhaps a producer with a cult following. I also like to offer the sommelier a taste of the wine I am bringing, but this need not be the case. Personally, I would never bring a general list wine to a good establishment, especially if the restaurant has a certified sommelier, complete with offering proper service and stemware. If in doubt, call ahead, and ask to speak with the sommelier. It will be greatly appreciated.

                          1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                            Generally I agree with your comments.

                            I take a wine I would consider 'special' - not necessarily expensive, but in almost every situation one that would not be available at the restaurant. So my reason is to have a wine that suits the food and most places I go are HAPPY to serve a wine that they know is not really available on their list (neither do they have a relevant substitute). I think (hope?) that they take it as a compliment that I have chosen a 'fine' wine and still want 'their' food.

                            As a matter of courtesy I will also buy from the list on other occasions. Not necessarily 50-50, but to demonstrate an ongoing loyalty to the restaurant without seeming to take advantage - they have to make a profit to continue in business.

                            I also tip a bit higher - calculated on the basis of a reasonably priced botle of wine from the list.

                            1. re: estufarian

                              Good advice from both Splendid Wine Snob and estufarian. Though it's often difficult to know what a resto has on its wine list if the list isn't on the resto's web site. I usually bring something in the $15-$25 range from recent LCBO Vintages releases so it's not likely on any wine list yet. And I always add $5-$8 on top of the regular tip to ensure that the wait staff isn't being shortchanged by a canny BYOWer. It seems to work out well enough.

                            2. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                              I'm not sure what "general list" means, but I generally agree that you don't want to BYO a quaffer such as Yellow Tail or like; but nothing wrong with Perrin & Fils Les Sinards CdP which may be considered a general list item.

                              It depends on the restaurant as well, as the wine you bring should be in mid-price range on the restaurant's list. I did once bring a wine that was on the restaurant's list (I didn't know it was) but it was an older vintage.

                          2. In searching around for a more complete answer to my friend's inquiry about corkage fees in restaurants which allow you to bring your own bottle, I was fortunate enough to find, on another thread on this topic, a link, kindly posted by CoCo.TO, to a magazine called PostCity which has a list of Joanne Kates's favourite 100 restaurants in 2010 in which she has duly ranked them all from 1 to 100. (I was very surprised to find Pastis at the top of her list but it doesn't allow you to bring your own bottle, so doesn't appear in my list). So here are the restaurants from her list that do allow you to bring your own bottle and what they charge in corkage fees. The order is the order in which the restaurants appear on Joanne Kate's list going from top to bottom. In other words Nota Bene is the "best" of the restaurants to allow you to bring your own bottle and Asian Legend the lowest::

                            Nota Bene: $40/free after 9.00pm.
                            Black Hoof: $25.
                            Centro: $35 (free Monday to Wednesday)
                            Cava: $30 (free on Sundays).
                            Zucca: $25.
                            Hoof Cafe: $25.
                            Splendido: $30.
                            Scaramouch Pasta Bar: $30. (Another site says that the main restaurant also charges $30 but this doesn't appear on JK's list).
                            George: $30.
                            Lucien: $40.
                            Niagara St Cafe: $30.
                            Lee: $30.
                            Malena: $30.
                            Oro: $30.
                            Colborne Lane: $50.
                            Caplansky's Deli: $0.00
                            Grand Chinese Cuisine: $20 (varies depending on wine)
                            C5: $25.
                            Pangaea: $30.
                            Edo: $10-20(depends on quality of glassware needed).
                            Mengrai Gourmet Thai: $18.
                            Tutti Matti: $25.
                            Auberge du Pommier: $35.
                            Gilead Bistro: $20.
                            Romagna Mia: $30.
                            Chiu Chow Boy: $10.
                            Trevor's Kitchen and Bar: Free Tuesday and Wednesday; $35 other days.
                            L'Unita: $30.
                            Harbord Room: $30.
                            Simple Bistro: $10 Sunday-Wednesday;$25 Thursday-Saturday.
                            Edo: $10.
                            Celestin: $20, lunch; $30 dinner.
                            Noce: $35.
                            Frida: call ahead.
                            Ame: $30.
                            Morgette: $30.
                            Starfish: $20.
                            Fressen: $25.
                            Big Mouth Kee: $0.00
                            Ba Shu Ren Jia: $10.
                            Morton's: $30.
                            Tabule: $15 (free Monday and Tuesday).
                            Mildred's Temple Kitchen: $25.
                            Miga: $15.
                            Didier: $20.
                            Canoe: $35.
                            Drake Hotel: $25.
                            Asian Legend: $8.

                            2009 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4S 1Z8, CA

                            623 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto, ON M4S 2M9, CA

                            Tutti Matti
                            364 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5V1R7, CA

                            Romagna Mia
                            106 Front Street East, Toronto, ON M5A 1E1, CA

                            478 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V2B2, CA

                            88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

                            1560 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4T 2S9, CA

                            Colborne Lane
                            45 Colborne Street, Toronto, ON M5E 1P8, CA

                            82 Ontario Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2V3, CA

                            875 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J1G5, CA

                            The Drake Hotel
                            1150 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                            134 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5R2H6, CA

                            2472 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4P 2F5, CA

                            484 Eglinton Ave W, Toronto, ON M5N1A5, CA

                            Simple Bistro
                            619 Mount Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S2M5, CA

                            Harbord Room
                            89 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

                            Grand Chinese Cuisine
                            655 Dixon Rd, Toronto, ON M9W1J3, CA

                            Chiu Chow Boy
                            3261 Kennedy, Toronto, ON M1V4Y1, CA

                            Nota Bene
                            180 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 2A1, CA

                            356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                            Mildred's Temple Kitchen
                            85 Hanna Avenue, Toronto, ON M6K 3S3, CA

                            Ba Shu Ren Jia
                            4771 Steeles Ave E, Toronto, ON M1V, CA

                            Miga Restaurant
                            399 Bank St, Ottawa, ON K2P1Y3, CA

                            Oro Restaurant
                            45 Elm, Toronto, ON M4W1N6, CA

                            Big Mouth Kee
                            280 West Beaver Creek, Thornhill, ON L4B3Z1, CA

                            299 James St N, Hamilton, ON L8R2L4, CA

                            The Black Hoof
                            928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: ER2

                              I've gone through them all (to dump into a database) recently and the numbers are all almost up-to-date, though there are some differences if you check on the restaurant website (well.. unless they're wrong). Just FYI!

                              1. re: ER2

                                A shout-out of thanks for all this work - and an apology for pointing out that the list you used is last year's!

                                She updated the list in the December 2010 issue, dropping Ruby Watchco, Cravings and Le Paradis. She added Sushi Kaji (#8), Chiado (#25) and Queen Margherita Pizza (#77) and reordered the list.
                                But she didn't point out more significant changes e.g. Scaramouche is now at #2. And I'm not sure why Pastis is #1 - but that's a different thread. Kudos to Kates for acknowledging that her first list was indeed a 'first attempt' - and at least we have something to work from.

                                And Nota Bene recently 'adjusted' its corkage policy (it's clearly stated in the FAQ's on their website).

                                Corkage is now $25 per bottle.
                                After 9:00 it is indeed $0 (doesn't seem to be a day-of-week restriction any more), but that's one bottle per 2 guests limit.

                                1. re: estufarian

                                  As I said, estufarian, I got to the list via a link provided on another post. However, I've just taken a second look at that list and it doesn't include Ruby Watchco, Cravings or Le Paradis but does include Suchi Kaji, Chiado and Queen Margherita Pizza. The reason that none of these appears on my list is that none of them allows you to bring your own bottle. And yes, on my list Scaramouche is at #2, so I think this must be the revised list you mention.

                                  Le Paradis
                                  166 Bedford Road, Toronto, ON M5R 2K9, CA

                                  864 College Street West, Toronto, ON M6H 1A3, CA

                                  Ruby Watchco
                                  730 Queen St E, Toronto, ON , CA

                                  Queen Margherita Pizza
                                  1402 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4L, CA

                                  1. re: ER2

                                    You mention in your post that the places are listed "in order"!
                                    You have Nota Bene as the 'highest place that allows BYOW'. And you also say "Scaramouche isn't listed". None of these jibe with the current list.

                                    My guess is that you NOW link to the updated list (but may not have before).

                                    Again, thanks for doing the work.

                                    1. re: estufarian

                                      I'm sure, Estufarian, you are right and that the link is now taking me to the later, revised list..I've been looking around for an "edit" function so I could alter what's on my list but can't find one. Am I looking in the wrong place? Anyway, as I can't edit the list, please mentally make these changes:

                                      1. Move Scaramouche into the first place on my listing.This, therefore, now becomes the "best" restaurant in Joanne's view which allows your to bring your own bottle and Nota Bene the second best.

                                      2. Amend Nota Bene's corkage fee to $25 but keep the free after nine provision - as I like dining late, I find that very appealing.

                                      3. Only Scaramouche but not Scaramouche's Pasta Bar is on the revised list. However, I've left the Pasta Bar on my list just to remind people it is there.

                                      4.There are some well known restaurants which didn't even make it onto Joanne's top one hundred list. Jacobs and Co. would be one example. Someone has reported that they were there quite recently and the corkage fee was $40.

                                      As this is supposed to be a list of restaurants in Toronto that allow you to bring your own bottle rather than just a list of the BYOB restaurants that appear on Joanne Kates's list - though that list proved mighty helpful - then space should be made for them . Maybe they could be listed separately under some title like "In Addition". Or is Jacobs and C the only restaurant that people can think of that doesn't appear on Joanne's list.? I suspect a number of steak houses didn't make it onto her list.

                                      Nota Bene
                                      180 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 2A1, CA

                                2. re: ER2

                                  Thank you ER2 for this list. This would be a good sticky item thread. A couple of surprises is C5 and Romagna Mia which didn't used to allow BYOW (that I recall). There are others such are Buca and Zen that don't allow (as far as I know) but I'm hoping as more restaurants do this, it becomes a competitive disadvantage to disallow BYOW.

                                  1. re: syoung

                                    This post spurred me on to start bringing my own bottle. Makes going out more palatable on the pocket book.

                                    I found this website which lists major cities in Ontario and their corkage.


                                    You can even sort it by corkage fees (but it lists all the cities together instead of by city when you do that


                                    UPDATE: Not sure if the website is accurate as I tried to send a comment and the server rejected me multiple times.

                                    1. re: Flexitarian

                                      Yeah, that site is olllllld. As is I've finished compiling my corkage list and I've found that even if restaurants have listed on their opentable page that they offer corkage, a phone call reveals that no, they don't. Or they were just brushing me off. I dunno. Their loss!

                             -- for free or for a fee, bring your bottle!

                                      1. re: jlunar

                                        Wow, your website is fantastic and the ability to sort by name, fee, and free is a great feature.

                                        1. re: Flexitarian

                                          Thanks! Hope it's useful. I mostly made it because of the many corkage threads here on CH in the last while and, nerd that I am, it hurt me to see that the data was *not* sortable...

                                        2. re: jlunar

                                          Great site jlunar!!! I've bookmarked it.

                                          1. re: jlunar

                                            Amazing compilation jlunar ... glad to have a "nerd" (too funny!) like you around ...

                                            1. re: CocoTO

                                              XD Food nerd. Game nerd. Code nerd. Always a nerd!

                                              Thanks guys; and do feel free to suggest changes and features! While I can't guarantee everything will work, you should get me now while the enthusiasm is high. The site's meant to pretty much take care of itself, with me just filtering spam.