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Patrons Can Now Bring Wine to Virginia Restaurants

by ARLnow.com July 1, 2011 at 11:30 am 8,077 30 Comments

Starting today, Virginia residents can bring their own bottles of wine to restaurants.

In February, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill allowing the practice, and it was later signed into law by Governor Bob McDonnell.  Restaurants that choose to allow BYOW can charge a corkage fee, which would vary by establishment. No requirements on minimum or maximum prices for the fees were established in the law.

While some are calling this a move that will prevent consumers from paying inflated prices on alcohol in restaurants others, like chefs, believe it could cheapen the dining experience.  Opponents of the practice say bringing wine to a restaurant is the equivalent of bringing outside food into a restaurant.

The District already allows patrons to bring their own wine to restaurants, and Maryland is expected to take up the measure sometime this year.

  • Arlwhenever

    Outside wine is allowed in at the option of an ABC-licensed restaraunt — if a chef think that cheapens the experience then all they need to do is bring the issue up with the owner/management, who have an obvious interest in maintaining value.

  • TGEoA

    The Clarendouche will be all over this. They love corking fees.

    • doodly

      Awesome – it’s an official word now. Love the use of “Clarendouche” as the plural too.

  • Charlie

    Our great legislature at work on issues important to us. NOT.

  • SF

    Would bringing a 40 into cheesecake factory really cheapen the experience? 🙂

    • Clarendude

      Box ‘o wine would be more appropriate for CF.

  • fluidj

    Does fortified wine count?

  • Dan Woodley

    Great news! I can’t wait to enjoy my Kiwi Strawberry Boones Farm at Ray’s the Steaks this weekend.

  • CW

    Does anybody know if you can have a BYOB place in Virginia? I’ve seen them in D.C. but can’t recall seeing any around here in my few years in the area. If Clarendon had a BYOB hibachi grill or Thai place, I, along with all the other post-frat douche types would be absolutely set for life…

  • Dan Woodley

    Great News! I can’t wait to bring a bottle of Fuzzy Navel Boones Farm up to Rays the Steaks this weekend.

    • Dr. Kwok

      This is the best news I’ve heard since the big announcement for the Dominion Trail Mix Labor Day fest! See everybody in Ashburn.

    • KalashniKEV

      HELL YES!!! Strawberry Hill for me!

  • Larchmont

    Hurry up Turtle.

  • “Cheapen the dining experience”?! What do you call the heartburn of paying exorbitantly inflated prices for the privilege of having your host serve it?

  • Bruce

    My partner showed me this post, and I just about fainted. People laugh at the chef bemoaning the impact of outside wine on his cuisine, but it’s true. It’s very, very true.

    As a sommelier myself at a non-Groupon eatery, I can tell you that in fact a lot of research goes into creating a wine list. You need to think about the type of cuisine on the menu, the season of the year, the relative humidity levels in various parts of Europe during that growing season, and the presentation you deliver to your clientele. All of this research requires a highly skilled workforce who can keep up with the latest agricultural and meteorological information.

    Amateur “foodies” may think they can find the perfect “3-buck Chuck” to go with their entree, but they are invariably wrong. Indeed, you may think it is outrageous to pay $350 for a bottle of wine to accompany their New York Strip. I can see, in this economy, that you might not want to advertise you are making this choice.

    But remember that you have invested 90-120 minutes of your life in the dining experience you receive at our establishment. And understand that this $350 bottle of wine is the absolute best choice for that steak you ordered, the way our chef prepares the steak. We are selling a culinary event, one that will provide satisfaction and memories that outweigh the cost of the experience.

    At my establishment, that $350 bottle you order here would cost $400 elsewhere. We are taking a haircut of 10%, resulting in only an 80% markup from wholesale. We do so because we understand these are difficult times, and within limits, we don’t want cost to stand in the way of your culinary journey. But we also don’t want you to order some sub-basement type of wine, and then think the dinner we provide is somehow not up to snuff.

    More importantly, we don’t want your date to think the dinner you provided is not up to snuff. For your sake. THAT’S why we take the road less traveled, and insist that we can only stand behind our cuisine when it is paired with selections recommended and cared for by our sommelier (in other words, by myself).

    • CW

      I think that the kind of people who have the capital to regularly engage in you “culinary event[s]” will probably either 1) continue to go along with your selections, or 2) be enough of wine snobs to begin with that they will probably bring in some pretty good stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not painting you as some sort of elitist that’s out of touch; I like an exorbitant dinner once in an while, and when I do that, I fall into category 1 and probably still will.

      Additionally, I think that a lot of people are missing the point. Everyone is thinking of super-high-end places when they talk about this. First of all, Arlington doesn’t even have any super-high-end places. Eventide is about as far as we come when you’re talking fine dining, and even that’s been in dispute lately from what I’ve heard on the street and from the critics.

      Where this stands to benefit people is in places that don’t have much of a wine list to begin with, or have one that is just cobbled together. Think of your favorite little Thai or Mexican place. They’re probably just serving whatever the distributor has sold them on. And they’re probably not moving much to begin with. So now you can run down to Arrowine and pick up something you like. Everyone wins.

      • Lou

        I think a lot of the appeal is to people who have finer wines in a collection at home, and want to drink them with a restaurant meal. I just can not see many people going to buy a bottle off the shelf and take if across the street to drink it in some restaurant.

        • CW

          I agree with the first statement. If you read Tom Sietsema’s online chats (where he talks about mostly D.C. restaurants), every few weeks he will consistently get a question along the lines of “I plan to bring my prized bottle of 1990-whatever Chateau-de-whatever to a restaurant and am wondering about proper etiquette in presenting it to the sommelier.” Allowing this in Arlington could actually help a lot of restaurants that don’t have spectacular wine lists, at least with this demographic.

          Regarding your second sentence, I disagree. Maybe not a lot of people will be walking straight from the store to the restaurant, no. But if I’m planning on going out for some spicy Thai or mexican food this weekend, and I happen to be at Costco or whole foods, then why not pick up that $12 bottle of riesling?

    • pasuku

      “non-Groupon eatery.” ZING

      The law permits BYOB but does not mandate it. Supposing your establishment ultimately offers BYOB, a high corking fee will discourage Philistines from bringing in Thunderbird.

      I understand what you’re getting at, but I get the feeling that you won’t be affected by this law.

    • Booger

      Boring. And the days of wine snobbery are rapidly drawing to a close under the harsh glare of science. But good luck with that while it lasts, Bruce.

    • brendan

      i’m hoping this is a joke?

    • DaveinSA

      Bruce – Where is Arlington does one pay $350 for a bottle of wine ?

    • Loocy

      Bruce, if your restaurant is offering superb wines that go perfectly with your superb menu, and even at a price that rivals retail elsewhere, good for you. Your restaurant won’t want to allow corkage, then.

      But at the more plebeian restaurants I go to, I find the same boring wines that you can find on the shelves at Safeway for $7.99 on sale being sold for $35. It’s a shame because at some of these restaurants, the food is excellent, but the wine list has clearly been approached with no care whatsoever besides an interest in getting both red and white at a few price points.

      • Zoning Victim

        I don’t get why people are picking on restaurants for charging more for wine than someone can buy it for in the store; at least I don’t get why that’s the only complaint. You’re going there to pay $25 for a $5 steak and if you don’t get the bottle of wine that costs you 2X to 3X what the establishment paid for it, you’re going to pay 20X what they paid for your favorite soda. Pasta goes at 10X the cost, and salads and carb laden sides go for way above what the restaurant pays for them, too. Be that as it may, most restaurants only make a 10-12% markup across the whole spectrum of what they sell. If they can’t make it on wine, they’ll have to raise their rates on something (or everything) else. Worrying about a restaurant’s markup on certain foods and drinks when you could feed an entire family a great meal on what one dinner and a drink will cost at a restaurant seems like a strange thing to be worried about to me.

        • Loocy

          True, but for my $35 I’d like something a little out of the ordinary, something not normally stocked at CVS or Safeway. The food has some added value since it is usually cooked in a way I wouldn’t normally get with minimal effort at home.

  • Theakston

    of course it doesn’t hurt that the restaurants usually have about 300% mark up on their in house wines (except for a few more honorable places like Rays that go for retail plus 10%)

  • JamesE

    Hell yeah I am going to bring me some Maddog 20/20

  • Jacob

    Some people don’t understand that choice means choice. Restaurants don’t have to allow it. Why was there a state law banning this to begin with?

  • Evil Matcher

    rule of thumb – wine by-the-glass costs to the consumers are typically the cost of the bottle to the restaurant. So your $9 glass of Chardonnay cost the restaurant $9 or so. If the restaurant only sells one glass, they lose no $$$ if they have to pour the rest out at the end of what one would hope be the night.

    By the Bottle is a lot more because the restaurant has to inventory the goods longer. Most restaurants in Arlington mark up 3x the cost of the bottle or so and that’s pretty much industry standard in this area.

  • Your Mama

    I will just drink my bottle of MD 20/20 in the parking lot with your mother..


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