Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >
Nov 2, 2011 09:21 AM

Question re: restaurants that don't have a liquor license

My husband and I have plans to meet friends this weekend at a new restaurant that doesn't have its liquor license yet. We'd definitely like to have some wine or beer during dinner.

We've never done BYOB, so I'm not familiar with the process. Will we be allowed to BYO into a restaurant that doesn't have a liquor license, or is the location dry until the license is granted? Are there any other rules or restrictions we should expect?

Thanks so much!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. From the NYS website:
    Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB)

    BYOB, or “Bring Your Own Bottle,” where owners of establishments allow their customers to bring alcoholic beverages to their premises to be consumed on site, is NOT PERMITTED in unlicensed businesses in New York State. You MUST have a license or permit to sell/serve beer, wine or liquor to the public. Venues without a license or permit may not allow patrons to “bring their own” alcoholic beverages for consumption. In addition, owners of businesses may not give away alcoholic beverages to their patrons. Those that do are in violation of the NYS Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.

    Applicants should be aware that allowing BYOB without a license may jeopardize their chances for approval of their license.

    In case you want to look at the State Liquor Authority yourself: .

    11 Replies
    1. re: LNG212

      It seems this regulation is not enforced. Odd? I've been to restaurants where they even store your opened bottle of wine for your next visit.

      1. re: LNG212

        Absolutely agree with Motosport. Have been to Benoit and others before their license came through that welcomed our wines and even had the sommelier on hand to decant, serve, whatever.

        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          Despite the official statement on the official NYS website, I do not believe that this is entirely correct. The website does not quote the statute, which I believe allows BYOB in places that seat fewer than 18 people. Else, how could the BYOB 3 Michelin starred Brooklyn Fare operate?

          As to the larger restaurants, most allow you to bring in alcohol. Some even charge a modest corkage fee. Call and ask the restaurant what their policy is. It is, however, technically illegal, and occasionally the SLA does crack down on a particular restaurant or neighborhood. So again its best to check in advance.

          1. re: bobjbkln

            The corkage fee is ridiculous, one place charged me and a guest $40 when we brought a $30 bottle of wine...Iwould not do it unless I have the amount in writing prior to dining

            1. re: dragonguy

              You can check on to see what a particular places fees and rules are. If the fee is $40 and it is a nice place it is worth it if you bring a good wine, something that costs me $100 is at least $200 or $250 on the list... so well worth a fee of $40. And a lot of my aged wines are not available at all. And really, who wants to drink unripe wines?

                1. re: RCC

                  I know you know what I mean. But as this is chow board not ERP or anther wine board it is a good descriptor...

          2. re: Delucacheesemonger

            I always thought BYOB was ok but the law is clear that it is not.
            One place I go to regularly and always did BYOB was applying for their liquor license and requested that no one did BYOB. They did not want to cause problems with their application process.

            1. re: Motosport

              I wonder if it matters to what extent the restaurant gets involved in the "serving" of the wine or beer. We often bring a 6 pack of beer to one of our Chinatown favorites, pop the tops and enjoy a cold on with our chow fun. No one @ the restaurant is involved except to dispose of the "dead soldiers." Would a patron be prohibited from taking a swig from a flask or adding a shot of rum to their Coca cola? Lots of questions?

              1. re: Motosport

                This raises no questions. It's all illegal. But the rule will never be enforced against them. (Kinda shows why.)

              2. re: Motosport

                My understanding was that BYOB was only allowed in places with a license and then at their discretion (corkage, etc.). I understand that the SLA doesn't always enforce their own rules, but I wouldn't want to be the person that puts a new place's license application in jeopardy just in case there is some random enforcement/inspection that occurs.

                I do think there are many people (and restaurants) that ignore the no-byo rules, some more blatantly than others, precisely because enforcement by the SLA is so lax.

          3. I often BYO at places that have a license and places that do not. Places that do not (i.e. la Sirene) usually do not charge corkage. Places that have a license usually do though many have a no corkage night (i.e. Apiary on Mondays).

            Call and ask. They will tell you their policy. Bring a nice bottle. it is nice to offer a taste to the server or chef (but you pour.. not them). And tip as if you had bought a mid priced bottle from them or just go 5% more on your tip than you otherwise might

            1. Thanks so much for the information everyone!

              5 Replies
              1. re: wvvm

                Actually, BYOB is allowed. Brooklyn Fare's Chef's Table is BYOB until they get their liquor license which I was told should be forthcoming at some point. I've also been to plenty of places that allow BYOB while they are waiting for the liquor license so it's a common practice which is allowed contrary to the statute one of the readers cited. Given the quality of the restaurants and the ppl involved in the ventures, I doubt any of them would take an unnecessary risk by allowing BYOB if it's against the law and could jeopardize their chances of getting a liquor license, the holy grail of bars and restaurants.

                1. re: lulumoolah

                  I assume you're not a lawyer.

                  I don't think you should be telling people that something is legal "despite a statute."

                  I think a lot of restaurants make considered common-sense judgments based on enforcement patterns -- just as a lot of high-end restaurants will serve wine to underage diners accompanied by adults. That's clearly illegal -- but the restaurants have made a considered (and to my mind proper) judgment that the law won't be enforced against them in those circumstances.

                  1. re: lulumoolah

                    Brooklyn Fare is OK because it has less than 19 seats as I said above. That is what the statute says. The SLA site makes a statement but does not quote the statute. Any place having more than 18 seats is not legal for BYOB.

                    1. re: bobjbkln


                      This says nothing about 19 seats or greater. It seems to say that it is illegal regardless of the size of the restaurant. I just don't think it is enforced, unless a disgruntled person complains.

                      1. re: famdoc

                        What these guys are saying is that the SLA website misdescribes the statute, which (they say) does have an 20-seat floor for application. Research supports their assertion. (I apologize for my posts above, which relied solely on the SLA website without recourse to the underlying statute.)