BYO-wine now allowed in B.C. restaurants

British Columbians now have carte blanche to bring their own wine to participating restaurants for enjoyment 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. “(This) change does just that—it allows customers to pair their favourite wine with their favourite restaurant.”

Roman St. Germain, general manager of the Delta Sun Peaks Resort, was in Ontario when the “bring your own wine” policy was introduced there, and is supportive of its implementation in B.C.

“I think it’s a good thing and we’ll likely be participating in allowing guests to bring in their own wine,” says St. Germain. “Having conversations with other Delta Hotels across B.C., we’ll likely all be participating in it and encouraging it.”

Patrons are required to have their wine served in the same manner as wine selected off the menu, and should expect the restaurant to charge a “corking fee” for the service. The average corkage fee in Canada is $12.50 per bottle, but can range from zero to $60. Patrons are also allowed to take away any unfinished wine as long as it’s re-corked in compliance with the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. Those regulations state the bottle must be re-corked with a fresh cork or plastic stopper, regardless of whether the bottle had a cork or screw cap enclosure.

Although participation in this service is voluntary, some restaurateurs are concerned that refusal to participate would be perceived negatively, or that proprietors will face challenges in ensuring patrons don’t become over-served. Others fear that restaurants that focus on wine selection might be negatively impacted.

“Some types of restaurants will suffer, I predict,” says local restaurateur Peter Ernst. “Those restaurants that put a lot of effort into their wine selection, wine tasting and wine education, will see a decline whether they participate or not. . . . (And) it’ll promote cheap wines (mostly from other countries) and will take away from a better dining experience.”

Nick Cundari, co-owner of the Sundance Liquor Store at Sun Peaks, doesn’t feel the new regulations will affect his business, or people’s dining habits, too drastically.

“Potentially there could be a small increase in (my) business (with consumers) buying wine to take to the restaurants, but to be honest, I don’t think it’ll drive a huge increase,” he says. “It’ll still be a small minority of people who are doing it for special occasions, because the restaurants charge a corkage fee. Unless your bottle of wine is twice the price of the corkage fee it’s not like you’re getting an economic advantage. I don’t think a ton of people are going to be rushing to do that.”

The option to bring your own selection to a restaurant will be attractive to some, but to others it’ll just represent an errand and baggage en route to a meal out. St. Germain noticed a flurry of interest in the service when it was implemented in Ontario, but noted a drop in interest over time.

“The first couple of months were quite busy, and then it tapered off,” he says. “People started thinking, ‘Well, I don’t really feel like bringing my own bottle,’ it’s kind of like bringing your own food, you go out for the whole experience.”

For more info about B.C.’s liquor laws visit:  sunpeaksne.ws/BYOWine

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