Bring-Your-Own wine arrives at B.C. restaurants

Don't bet on big savings as corkage fees are predicted to run $15 to $20

B.C. is enabling a Bring Your Own Wine program at participating B.C. restaurants.

Diners can now bring their own bottle of wine to participating restaurants in B.C..

The new Bring Your Own Wine program was unveiled Thursday by Rich Coleman, the province’s minister in charge of liquor regulation.

He said it offers patrons the ability to have any wine they want with their dinner and should spur more business for restaurants.

A big part of the lure will be the savings – restaurants typically double the price of a bottle from a liquor store – but a big chunk of that will likely be eaten up by a “corkage fee” restaurants will be allowed to charge for service.

Corkage fees might be $15 or more at some restaurants, which will be free to set their own rates or charge none at all.

“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,” Coleman said.

Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Service Association, predicts most B.C. restaurants will embrace the B.Y.O. option, not just ones that carry small wine selections.

“I think the majority of restaurants will do it,” he said. “I think it makes good sense. It is all about hospitality, welcoming guests and creating a good guest experience.”

He said $15 to $20 is typical of the corkage fees charged by restaurants in other jurisdictions.

Quebec has long had an Apportez Votre Vin program that operates in the same way, as do Ontario, Alberta, Washington and California.

Asked if high-end restaurants are bracing for a flood of economy-minded customers who arrive with cheap U-Brew wine, Tostenson said it’s unlikely. “Nah, won’t happen. Or if they do they’ll still pay their $15 to $20.”

He predicted the change could boost restaurant attendance two per cent, adding $20 million to industry sales in B.C.

Licensees are still liable if patrons are over-served or liquor service is provided to minors.

Coleman said B.C. has no plans to broaden the program to beer and spirits.

Bring Your Own is the latest in a series of changes to B.C.’s liquor laws.

The province is now allowing movie theatres to apply for liquor licences and has also modernized old rules that barred cross-border wine shipments.

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