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Oct 4, 2011 06:31 PM

BYO etiquette (when it's not a BYO) [moved from Philadelphia board]

I am a huge fan of byo's, I don't eat at them exclusively, but pretty close. I have heard that many restaurants with a bar/wine list will permit you to bring your own bottle for a corkage fee, regardless of the allowance, what is the general feeling on this matter? DO any of you fellow hounds take advantage of this option?

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  1. I like RSVP Champagne from Trader Joe's. If the corkage fee is $10-$15 I come out ahead. If I bring $100+ bottle of wine I still come out ahead. I never worry about it when drinking $40-75 bottles.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JB BANNISTER

      One of my favorite local restaurants, Sovana Bistro in Kennett Square, has a liquor license and a pretty decent wine list, but also allows BYO with an $8 corkage fee. Given typical wine list markups of about 300%, I really appreciate the option of bringing my own wine, and I usually do. Sometimes I'll order a drink from the bar or a glass of wine in addition to what I've brought. And sometimes, as happened just this past Saturday night, I'll bring a bottle but end up ordering off their wine list instead. The wine I brought just didn't pair well with our entrees, and we were happy to order off the wine list instead.

      I wouldn't ever bring along a wine that was on the restaurant's wine list, and I also wouldn't bring along an inexpensive bottle that wouldn't warrant the corkage fee.

    2. Anytime l can. Generally call and see if permitted and what corkage charge is. If allowed TaDa. Tend not to order wine in restaurants that are non BYOB anymore. Ask fee as, for example, Per Se has a $ 75/bottle charge.

      1. I've not taken advantage of the option as I frequent BYOs practically exclusively (!). With respect to etiquette, there are some common-sense rules that I've heard from winos in other states where BYO is seen as a rare priviledge. I agree with most, though perhaps not all. I'm intrerested in your thoughts.

        1. Don't bring a bottle that's on the list
        2. Bring something relatively rare - that doesn't necessarily mean expensive or old, but readily-available commercial wine-product is probably interchangeable with something on the resto's list.
        3. If there's a somm, offer a taste
        4. If you're part of a large party drinking multiple bottles, order at least one from the list
        5. Calculate tip as if you had ordered from the list

        2 Replies
        1. re: JKP58

          Thank you all, all excellent tips! JKP58- the first two I assumed, but the rest are really great suggestions. I worked in the biz for many years and was wondering how the server would view this but suggestion 5 totally clears that up.

          I think if I were to dine at a restaurant that has a $75 corkage fee, that is pretty much out of the question! I have some incredible wine that I brought back from CA and I just wasn't sure if this practice was frowned upon by the restaurant/foodie community, no worries now. Thanks again!

          1. re: JKP58

            I pretty much agree here. I don't get a chance to byob b/c, technically it is not legal in Indiana. But when elsewhere I generally follow the rules above. I always call first to confirm that it is o.k., what the price is and remember the name of who I talked to.

            I agree with pt. #2. I avoid bringing in anything that is on the list. The only problem with this, and there is little the diner can do, is when web site lists aren't updated.

          2. Why was this removed from Philadelphia's board ? The BYOB system in Pa, while not unique, is different than many areas.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              It was moved because it's not about food, it seems there's no local miscellaneous board.

              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                With the original post moved to this board, the content of this thread has shifted from where it might have been if the moderators had left it where it belonged -- namely, on the Philly board. The BYO scene in the Philadelphia area may be unique -- it's certainly different enough from most other cities because of the absence of liquor licenses and low (or absent) corkage fees in so many restaurants. I don't think the original post was moved because it wasn't about food; I think it was moved because the moderators don't know Philly well enough to recognize a Philly-centric question when they see one.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  I agree, CindyJ, the Chowhound Team doesn't understand Philly, and this is definitely a Philadelphia question. While other cities may have some BYO options, the BYO is so much a part of the fabric of this city, that those unfamiliar with the Philly dining scene simply don't understand how pervasive it is.

                  1. re: CindyJ

                    With BYOB, or BYOW, I strongly agree. Each area of the US (and probably much of the world) has unique laws.

                    As a for instance, in Hawai`i, BYOB/BYOW is allowed, and with some neat additions, such as taking opened bottles to one's room, But, if one is on Maui, things are greatly different. What is allowed in the county of O`ahu, bear no resemblance to how things are done on Maui.

                    I am sure that Philly is much different from my location, Phoenix, where there are many considerations, that must be accounted for.

                    Sometimes, I feel that the MOD's mean well, but just miss a point, or two.


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Pennsylvania's liquor laws are truly arcane, and have been the topic of many discussions here on CH. But the upside is that here in the Philadelphia area we're fortunate to have restaurants -- ranging from world class to neighborhood pizzerias -- that don't have liquor licenses. That means they're not allowed to sell alcoholic beverages, but nothing precludes them from allowing guests to bring their own. I'll often download a BYO restaurant's menu and bring it with me to my favorite wine store (NOT in PA -- but that's a whole other topic, too) for help with wine pairings.

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        There is a sort of "variation" on that in Phoenix, where a restaurant, without a liquor license (or one of the necessary level), but then it gets down to the number of seats, and a couple other considerations, to allow for BYOW/BYOB.

                        I grew up in an area of the US, where the liquor laws were real paradoxes. In the mid-60's, things changed, and ABC became the norm, in many counties - county option, so there were new laws.

                        We traveled to the Carolinas often, and had to learn the ABC On, ABC Off and ABC On-Off, as they applied to most locations there.

                        Lot to learn, and the Maui county laws were new to me, as late as 5 years ago.


                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          I've been noticing that more and more small neighborhood eateries here in the Philadelphia suburbs have jumped onto the BYO bandwagon and have placed "BYO" signs in their storefront windows. I've seen them in the local Chinese place, the neighborhood pizzeria and the small taqueria. We can bring in beer, wine and/or spirits. Those places never seem to charge a corkage fee. The stemware is sometimes awful, but that can be dealt with in various ways (BYO could easily refer to stemware as well as beverages).

                2. After JKP58's suggestions, I'd also offer the following:

                  Call the restaurant and ask if it's okay.

                  I don't know what the laws are in PA, but in NYC I don't think every restaurant has a corkage policy. Some places may frown upon it unless it's a special occasion or a special bottle. Most restaurants are probably going to be okay with a corkage, but I can imagine some may not be.