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Dec 7, 2011 06:42 AM

Blackfish- great food, but...

Incredible tasting menu experience at Blackfish this weekend. The appetizer courses were off the menu (striped bass, foie gras and smoked salmon/fried egg), and the entrees were not (veal with trumpet mushrooms and squab two ways). The cheese course was a wonderful mild blue with beet marmalade, and dessert was chocolate deliciousness with pistachios and fleur de sel. I am swooning just thinking about it.

Everything was fantastic, and with the exception of one particularly long delay between appetizer courses, the service was great as well. My one gripe was with the bill. We did the seven course tasting menu, and therefore spent $180 on food. I was very surprised to see a $2 corkage fee. First, I'm not sure if it was written anywhere or not. I honestly can't say I paid a lot of attention. And frankly, I know $2 is not alot of money. However, at an upscale BYO, I was surprised, and a little insulted at this charge. Is this a common trend that I have missed in the area? I can't say I've seen a corkage fee at the other places we've been going. Have I just not paid attention?

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  1. I was there about two years ago and IIRC their stemware is very good (different glasses for white and red), they offered to bring an ice bucket for our white and came by to pour when our glasses got low.

    IMO $2 per bottle is a bargain even if I wasn't told.

    1. +1 for george2. I think $2 is a bargain considering they are making no profit off of alcohol, had to purchase the stemware and ice buckets, and have to wash and shelve everything after use. In due course, there is breakage that needs replacement and the time taken by all of the above.

      In running a restaurant, every conceivable expense needs to be considered, even down to calculating the number of capers on a salad that will allow a profit to be made off a #10 tin. It is a rough business and, again, $2 is a pittance that probably just breaks even.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Chefpaulo

        But hardly any other BYOB charges corkage.

        1. re: barryg

          In my experience, it seems more commonplace in the burbs than in the city. By which I mean, the only places I've ever been charged for corkage at a BYOB in Pennsylvania are in the burbs.

          1. re: barryg

            The Philadelphia area is probably one of the few in the country where byob is prevalent. I'm amazed that a number of good restaurants with wine lists allow it, albeit usually with a corkage charge. BYOB is a phenomenal cost saver and a wine lovers dream. Generally, it's a loss leader for places, like Blackfish, that allow it, while places with liquor licenses most always make less per bottle than if they sold it themselves. It's probably the economy that's a driving force.

            Sometimes there's something worthwhile to gripe about at a restaurant, but when it comes to nominal corkage fees we should say thank you to the proprietor or at the very least, hush up lest they change their minds.

            1. re: george2

              The driving force is our state's ridiculous liquor laws and licensing, licenses are incredibly expensive and a lot of people that want to open a restaurant just can't afford it. It's not a loss leader for Blackfish, they don't have a liquor license and couldn't legally sell you a bottle if you wanted one. Restaurants that sell wine and also allow BYO are exceedingly rare (around here), I would certainly expect to be charged corkage in that situation, but not at a place that is BYOB only. Most of those places that I know of started out BYO and then got a liquor license later on.

              1. re: Buckethead

                What I meant by loss leader is they probably lose money on breakage, washing, buying good stemware as an incentive to get you in the door. There are plenty of byob's that offer a single small crappy wine glass and most people couldn't care less.

                The driving force of the LCB laws is a given, but the economy forces restaurants to raise the bar. Blackfish is one of them.

                The people who gripe about corkage fees reminds me of my road running days. A fellow who sponsored races costing $8 with a free tee shirt had a bunch of $1 and $5 bills in his pocket at the end of every race. Invariably, a few runners complained about something inconsequential. He'd take take their name, give them $8 on the spot and add them to the short list of people who he wouldn't respond to when they tried to sign up for another of his races.

                1. re: george2

                  "There are plenty of byob's that offer a single small crappy wine glass and most people couldn't care less."

                  Yes, and there are plenty of BYOB's that use nice stemware and don't charge corkage.

        2. Hi there, Kramer

          The corkage fee is on their website

          I don't recall either if it's on the menu or not

          As george2 mentioned, it's to cover the cost of the stemware and the attention that the server has to give you for the wine.

          1. While this is off-topic, Pa is the only area l know with BYOB's that does not charge corkage. AFAIK it is illegal in Pa to allow patrons to use their own alcohol if the restaurant has a liquor license, yet it is done in many, many places. In NY, Nevada, California, and others you do pay a significent corkage fee up to at Per Se, it is $ 125 a bottle, or was. l always felt the fair thing was if the restaurant's lower level wines had a, for example, $ 15 profit, that should be the corkage charge. Here we get off scot free, what a deal. Places like Modo Mio even have super glasses if you are bringing super wine, as does Bibou. These glasses are not inexpensive, and have to be washed and are sometimes broken. l have never had an issue with corkage just am happy to have it available. All that said, $ 2 seems like a nuisance charge for corkage and that little amount might be added to the cost of the dinner so it does not appear to be nickel and dimeing the customer.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              South Jersey seems to have a lot of BYOBs as well, and AFIAK corkage fee is not common.

              1. re: barryg

                l meant the Delaware Valley. Collingswood is all BYOB, as dry community.

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  Not just Collingswood. Mullica Hill, Pitman and other areas around here are "dry" or full of BYOBs. I've never encountered corkage charges at any of them - and while some offer just basic stemware and service, others are quite professional and accommodating in their wine service. It's also common around here for our NJ wineries to have tiny "outlet" shops so that their bottles can be sold at cost to diners who need a bottle last minute...pretty nice if you don't mind drinking South Jersey wines :)

                  Look, I'm not outraged by the idea of corkage fees and I know this area is a little unique in its approach. But, I've also yet to go to a Center City BYOB that charged for corkage so I'd be a little put off if it was charged in the area, when other places that offer good stemware and service don't charge for it. $2 seems kind of petty and silly when a table has spent $180 on food. It's a different thing entirely bringing a bottle to a restaurant that HAS a liquor license - in such cases I have absolutely no qualms about paying corkage.

              2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                Old thread DCM, but this may be interesting to others. It is not illegal in PA for a restaurant with a liquor license to allow BYOB (and many do). This is documented by Mark Squires on the Robert Parker website (copies of his correspondence with PLCB).

              3. Your surprise at the $2 corkage fee is understandable as you were unaware. As pointed out by others here the services provided by the restaurant and their costs should assuage your feelings of insult. Many fine restaurants allow customer wine and charge a corkage fee for those who are serious about their wine choices and my have a private cellar/collection. Per Se(NYC) has been charging $75 per with a kicker after six bottles and the French Laundry(NAPA) charges $50 per with a big kicker after 6 bottles. Of course the other function of BYOB is to allow a customer to enjoy a better wine at a lower cost than a restaurant served bottle thus making dining more affordable , which is in itself is good customer service. Good stemware, an ice bucket and pouring for $2 per seems a bargain. We in Philadelphia are currently in a sweet spot relative to the charges in other cities for corkage So perhaps we should just quietly drink up our bottles and pay the $2 bucks gladly.