So, as most who visit this site must already know, the BC Provincial Government has allowed restaurants to offer BYO wine to their guests, according to the media release that came out earlier today:
LANGLEY – Minister Rich Coleman announced today that British Columbians can now bring their own bottle of wine into participating restaurants and enjoy it with their meals.
“We want to provide our restaurant industry with greater flexibility in terms of the services it can offer to its customers,” said Rich Coleman, Minister responsible for liquor. “Today’s change does just that – it allows customers to pair their favourite wine with their favourite restaurant.”
Patrons will be required to have the wine served in the same manner as wine selected from the menu and restaurants may charge a corkage fee for this service.
“The government continues to introduce common-sense solutions such as the Bring Your Own Wine program. This gives industry the needed flexibility to get people out and dine more,” said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the British Columbia Restaurant and Food Service Association. “More business will result in positive economic impacts such as increased employment and downstream benefits to suppliers of the industry. This is a very innovative, flexible and common-sense policy.”
This change is supported by the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association and the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. Participation in this service by licensed restaurants is voluntary.
“Restaurateurs, especially those with limited wine inventories, welcome the option of allowing their guests to bring their own wine,” said Mark von Schellwitz, vice president of Western Canada for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. “This liquor policy change allows those restaurant guests who want to celebrate a special event by bringing a vintage bottle of wine from their own cellar to their favourite restaurant to do so.”
Licensees are still liable if patrons are over-served or liquor service is provided to minors. As in other provinces, there are no plans to broaden this beyond wine to include beer and spirits.
“By allowing people to bring their own bottle of wine into their favourite dining establishment, we’ve provided restaurant owners with a great opportunity to create a new type of dining experience that will further promote our wonderful restaurants here in British Columbia,” continued Coleman.
These changes build on the B.C. government’s commitment to modernize B.C.’s liquor laws.
From the flurry of conversations I’ve had with colleagues, the consensus seems to be that most will allow it, and charge $20-25 corkage per bottle (provided it’s not already on the restaurant’s list.) This allows the same profit as a cheaper wine on a list (without the inventory cost, etc) and is prohibitive enough to prevent someone just luggin’ in some crap Oyster Bay or Yellow Tail ’cause it’s hella-cheap. Really, a wine choice can make or break a restaurant experience and there is as much thought going into a restaurant’s wine program as there is the food menu. We certainly don’t want to (and won’t) abolish the sommelier’s role with this change. Whether you look at Alberta, California, Australia or elsewhere, it still ends up being the exception rather than the rule for people to arrive with bottle in hand.
It would have been considerate to allow licensees to see and weigh the legislation before jumping straight to a media release but, well, the Liberal government are doing this simply for the PR anyways, so it’s not a huge surprise. It appears that it’s up to restaurants whether they offer it at all and up to them to determine what their corkage policies and fees will be.
Also, and this is still the big one, if Coleman could come through with that across-the-board wholesale discount he’s alluded to (licensees still get zero discount on alcohol,) that would certainly aid the continuing movement of a restaurant’s inventory and offerings, give guests more selection and provide prices that are fairer than where mark-ups currently have to sit. In all, a solution that’s best for everyone.