Category Archives: Bring Your Own Bottle

Weekly Corkage Deals and Alerts on Yelp! San Francisco and more…

Did you know the average industry markup on wine is two and a half to three times its wholesale cost? Crazy right?! This week we take a look at restaurants in San Francisco that have special nights during the week where you can uncork that bottle free of charge! [LINK]

Weekly Corkage Deals on Yelp! for San Francisco and beyond…

Find coupons for wine corkage: Corkpons

A website that maps restaurants that offer wine corkage for a fee, or sometimes — though rarely — for nothing, has a new thing going. It’s called Corkpon, or a coupon for corkage.

Corkpons, as explained by CorkageFeed, are created by restaurateurs and bar owners as a way to attract customers. To find Corkpons and corkage information at restaurants near you, go to and plug in your ZIP Code, the restaurant name or the city. If a restaurant is featuring a Corkpon, you’ll see a “Corkpon offer” button on the listing. Redeem the offer by printing it or showing it to your waiter on your smartphone. [LINK]

A Taste of Monterey

A Taste of Monterey is an interesting and unique wine shop, tasting room and bistro, as well as, a promoter of No Corkage Fees! Any local wine that is purchased a A Taste of Monterey can be taken to anyone of several local Monterey Restaurants and no corkage fee will be charged. We think this a great idea to promote local wineries and local restaurants at the same time and we hope this is a concept that will catch in more areas over time.

The Etiquette Of Navigating A Corkage Fee

While most good restaurants allow diners to bring their own wine, some don’t, so the first step in deciding whether or not to bring your own bottle is to call ahead and ask if it’s allowed. We usually ask when we make the initial reservation or when we confirm that reservation on the day for which it was set. Simply ask the maître d’ what the restaurant’s corkage policy is, and then whether or not they have a fee.

Corkage and Tipping a.k.a. Gratuitage

Wine_bagWe went to a trendy restaurant for dinner one evening in the Dog-patch district of San Francisco a few years back and I brought a couple bottles of really nice wine along, based on some menu items I noticed while having a business lunch there a few weeks prior. I didn’t think to call ahead to inquire about the  corkage fee and I more or less thought the fees should be at least reasonable and or something could be worked out, like a one-for-one or something mutually agreeable.

When the server came to the table, I mentioned we had brought a couple of choice bottles and were willing to share them with all of the staff (really), if any of them were interested and that I had carefully considered the selections based on some of their very interesting entrees. The server promptly told me the corkage fee was $35 a bottle and there was a two bottle limit. At the time, $35 a bottle was the most I had ever heard of paying for corkage. I was flabbergasted and completely caught off-guard.

I remember being pretty darn hungry and even feeling rather tired (low blood sugar?) after very long day at work but, I also found myself getting kind of perturbed and even somewhat indignant. I tried to do my best to remain calm and pleasant. I asked about the possibility of doing a one-for-one, to which I received a very solid, no-way-Jose in return.

The restaurant is (was?) a very popular place but, on this particular evening, I remember quite well, it was a little late and the place was half full (or half empty, depending on your take on things). I ended up telling the server that I was kind of taken aback and that I would keep my wine for another evening and decided very intentionally, I would keep my order to a bare minimum, which I indeed did. I had an entree, a side dish and a glass of water.

I told my dining companion, that after thinking about it a bit, I could have easily agreed to the corkage fees and then taken a portion (or all of it) of it out of the gratuity. We talked about that approach as evenhandedly as we could. We carried on in ‘friendly debate‘ fashion, as I recall, not unlike the satire versions of 60 minutes Point/Counter-point that Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtin did on Saturday Night Live in the 1970’s (dating myself here a bit).

The result of our lively ‘discussion’ was that it was definitely not going to be fair to the server, although their attitude was a little less than cooperative, to stiff them on the gratuity, to make a point to the ownership.

As it turned out, our restraint in ordering any starters or cocktails, soups, salads, desserts or anything other than the core basics, was our two person attempt to let those at the top know that people that like good wines and good food, know what they like and should not feel as though they being penalized for bringing in some interesting vino to complement their dining experience. So, there and harrumph!

My recollection was that meal was excellent but, sadly lacking in the pairing of some amazing vintages that would have made an excellent meal an unforgettable culinary experience. Alas, the only real reason the meal was made so unforgettable was the iron-fisted, hard-nosed, attitude of the wait staff caring out the high dictum of their greedy overlords. Ultimately, we never went back to this establishment ever again…. Oh well!

So, the question then becomes… Who ultimately lost out in the long run? With hundreds, if not thousands of dining options in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, and no shortage of great venues charging reasonable or in some case no corkage fees, did we feel burned or somehow shorted? Not so much. Maybe just ever so slightly fleeced.

It would be interesting to take a shot at trying to roughly calculate just how much revenue this establishment has lost over the years since our encounter there in terms of goodwill, recommendations we did not make to our friends, co-workers, fellow wine club members, positive ratings left on dining reviews sites and so forth and so on… I think it is fair to say, the restaurateurs ended up losing out on a lot more than we ever did and this could easily be multiplied by scores of other fellow members of the BYOB set who had the same experience there.

There is an interesting Blog posting by W. Blake Gray along with some very spirited comments following it, on the topic of Tipping on Corkage. Well worth a look, while sipping a glass of your favorite varietal!

Cheers, Mike @ NCF

New Michigan law lets diners take their own wine to some restaurants

By Sylvia Rector / Gannett Michigan

The Novi News reached out to a variety of Novi restaurants about the new wine corkage law, but received responses only from Diamond Jim Brady’s…

Michigan diners can now legally take their own bottles of wine to restaurants that have liquor licenses, but they will likely have to pay a corkage fee to have it served to them and the restaurant must be willing to allow it.

Previously, wine purchased outside a restaurant could not be served there, but a new state law that took effect March 14 changes that.

Restaurants still have the option to prohibit outside wines, said Justin Winslow, the Michigan Restaurant Association’s vice president of governmental affairs. And they can charge whatever they wish as a corkage fee — the charge for providing glassware and serving the wine.  More…


A Chinese Bill of Restaurant Rights: BYOB, No Corkage Fees

Customers eat at a restaurant in Shanghai in January 2014.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A new law that went into effect earlier this month has given frequenters of hot pot restaurants, karaoke joints and other entertainment venues something to cheer about.

Food and beverage establishments were banned earlier this month from charging customers corkage fees or requiring minimum levels of consumption as part of a broader Consumer Rights Law. The new measure also offers consumers the ability to more easily return online purchases and aims to better protect buyers’ personal information.

Not all businesses are yet complying, but meanwhile dissatisfied customers are already finding traction in the courts. Last week, a diner in Chengdu won a case against a hotpot restaurant for charging her a 30 yuan ($4.84) corkage fee for bringing her own drinks to accompany her meal. The restaurant also charged 50 yuan fee to use a private room. The court ordered the restaurant to refund both of the fees.

“Consumers need to enhance their awareness of their rights, they need to take them seriously and fight for their interests,” Cao Yi, the lawyer who defended the customer, said in an interview.

But some business owners say they’re being unfairly punished for others’ actions—after all, no one wants to use their resources to serve diners who perpetually BYOB and order little more than peanuts.

Chen Haoyang, owner of a café in the southern city of Shantou, says the new law was passed in order to crack down on “establishments that are deliberately cheating customers,” even though most restaurants, including his own, don’t behave in such a manner.

“Although consumers are now protected, now we law-abiding vendors have lost protection,” Mr. Chen said.

In a posting last week on the café’s Weibo account, Mr. Chen wrote, “Please don’t bring any outside food or beverage into our café. It’s not that we are stingy, but we have to respect each other.”

Still others are finding new ways to strike back. One restaurant in Chengdu evidently irked by BYOB customers posted a sign reading, “If you bring your own beverage, please bring your own cups.”

That sign, circulated hundreds of times on social media sites this week, prompted outraged reactions from diners.

But some took a more nonchalant attitude. “No problem,” wrote one user on Sina Weibo. “We drink straight from the bottles anyway.”

Li Jie