At least a few Nelson restaurants are embracing a change in BC liquor laws to allow patrons to bring their own bottle of wine to dinner.
Bibo, Relish and the General Store restaurant in the Hume Hotel are the first to welcome store-bought wines at their dining tables. Louie’s and The Wedge at Granite Pointe are considering whether they’ll follow suit.
The Star spoke to many restaurants who hadn’t heard of the policy change and others who flat out said they’d never consider it.
BC WineGuys’ Jon Langille expects his business will benefit if restaurant patrons get into the habit of buying wine from the store before going for dinner.
“A restaurant should be making money off food, and not so much from the liquor,” said Langille, lamenting the fact that wine is often marked up 100 per cent at restaurants.
“Everybody’s drunk on the money they make off wine, and I don’t think they realize that it damages business across the board,” Langille said.
The BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association advocated for bring your own wine legislation, which is already in place in six provinces including Alberta and Ontario.
Langille said most wine lovers plan to eat at home when they want to share a good bottle from their collection, and now some of those people might instead choose to bring the wine to a restaurant to enjoy.
“The idea is to get more bums in seats at restaurants, which is good for everyone,” Langille said.
June McEwen, owner of Bibo, said despite her restaurant having a carefully selected wine list, she’s interested to see what customers will bring in.
“From time to time we’ve had [out-of-province] customers travelling through who bring in a bottle they picked up at a winery and are were surprised they couldn’t drink it here,” McEwen recalled. “We don’t want people to go elsewhere to drink their wine.”
Both Bibo and the General Store set a $20 per bottle corkage fee. The cost to have your own wine served at Relish is $10 per bottle, plus $2 per glass, so a table of four would pay $18.
Trevor Ditzel, owner of Relish, said being from Ontario the idea of allowing patrons to bring wine is no big adjustment. But he prefers people not bring in something already on his wine list.
“If they want to bring something different to try, I think that’s great,” Ditzel said. “Usually people in the past who asked to bring in wine were celebrating a special occasion. It’s not something they want to do every time.”
None of the participating restaurants have had anyone come in with wine since the law changed two weeks ago.
Langille of BC WineGuys’ said it will take time for patrons to adjust to the idea of buying wine before dinner. But he expects restaurants who allow carry-in wine will start to see the reward.
“It’s going to be the place that offers the cheapest corkage fee that gets the business. That will become another level of competition,” Langille said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if once a place comes out with a $5 corkage fee, everywhere else brings theirs down too.”
Over at Granite Pointe golf club, general manager Robyn Mitz is still weighing the pros and cons of allowing bring your own wine at The Wedge restaurant.
“It’s a double-edged sword because we make good money off wine but we also want more people to come here,” she said. “I need to take some time to research it before making a decision.”
It’s up to each individual restaurant with a food-primary liquor license to decide whether to let patrons bring their own wine. Those that do allow it must serve the wine in the same manner as wine selected off their menu.
Only unopened, commercially produced wine may be carried into restaurants and a patron can bring the unfinished portion of a bottle home with them.