Some Comox Valley restaurants will allow customers to bring in their own bottles of wine for a corkage fee of $20.
According to Sandra Viney, owner of the Atlas Café and Avenue Bistro, her two restaurants as well as Locals, the Union Street Grill, Martine’s Bistro and Toscanos Trattoria have all decided to offer their customers this option.
The Ministry of Energy and Mines, which is the ministry responsible for liquor control and licensing, announced the change in policy in mid-July, but noted restaurant participation is voluntary.
Viney is from Australia so she grew up with a similar policy in place, and she said she’s excited the Province has changed the rules.
“It was a big adjustment coming here and not being able to do it, so I’m happy that this day has come and that law has been passed,” said Viney. “It’s a progressive rule that we’ve been waiting for.”
According to the ministry, 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.
Also, the wine must be unopened and commercially produced — meaning no U-brew or home-made wines — but it can be purchased from outside of the province.
Customers can take home their opened bottle of wine, but a restaurant employee must put a new cork in the bottle.
Before Viney announced how much the corkage fee would be, Jason Hyde, a Vancouver Island wine supplier with Peacock and Martin Ltd., noted the fees would likely be close to the same amount as the average price of a bottle of wine, which he said is around $20.
According to Hyde, restaurants usually double the cost of a bottle of wine, so they usually sell a $20 bottle of wine for about $40. With the $20 corkage fee in place, he said it’s a good deal for customers if they have an expensive bottle of wine they’d like to bring or one that’s special to them.
“That would be a good deal if you came back from France or Italy or you had a nice expensive wine to bring in there but it wouldn’t make sense to be bringing in a $15 bottle of wine or even a $20 bottle of wine,” he said, adding the wines restaurants serve generally go really well with their food because the restaurants choose the wines they want to sell with their food.
Locals chef and owner Ronald St. Pierre also noted the new option is positive for people who want to bring in expensive or special bottles of wine, but he added he has mixed feelings about the new policy and pointed out restaurants have many costs associated with liquor licences.
“We do have lots of costs involved and that, you know, fees, licensing and everything,” said St. Pierre. “So to sell liquor — it’s like going to eat at the restaurant and bringing your own food, you know, so you think about it, or other services that people purchase, like going to, I don’t know, to the spa and bringing your own product.”
He also noted he has about $20,000 invested in his alcohol inventory.
But, he is from Montreal where a similar policy is in place — and in many restaurants there, bringing their own wine with them is only way customers can have wine in those restaurants.
“I know that in Montreal there’s many restaurants that don’t actually sell liquor, you have to bring your own wine, that’s the only way that you can have wine at that restaurant,” he said. “Maybe it’s going to open a new door for people (here) to be doing a little more like they do in Montreal and somebody’s just going to allow people to bring their wine, I don’t know.”
Licensees are still liable if patrons are overserved 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, according to the ministry.