A corkage too far

I’m slightly peeved. While the dollar amount at issue is small, I think BYO restaurants that employ the policy I find annoying would help themselves by abolishing it.

Here’s what happened: a brand-new BYO restaurant we tried over the weekend in the Philadelphia area (I’ll leave it unnamed for now) charged $5 to open our bottle of wine. (By the way, it was a delicious 2009 Liparita Oakville Cabernet.) While the restaurant announces its BYO status in caps on the front door, it gives no forewarning of the “service fee,” which shows up as a line item on the bill.

In my experience, restaurants that lack liquor licenses and allow customers to bring their own wine or other alcohol (there are many such places in New Jersey and Pennsylvania) generally do not assess a corkage. After all, it’s inherently unfair to charge for opening a patron-supplied bottle when the restaurant cannot offer equivalent bottles on its menu.

And, more than unfair, the policy feels petty and makes the restaurant—particularly in this case, when the food is beautifully prepared and delightfully seasoned—seem miserly. If the owners aren’t meeting their expenses with the food prices alone, why not raise the menu items by a dollar or two? For this establishment, which is prix-fixe, it would be easy to add $2.50 per head and drop the corkage.