Bring your own wine comes to BC restaurants–corkage fees may apply

Latest modernization of BC liquor laws seen as a "win-win-win" scenario

In what is likely to be a very popular decision, the Government of British Columbia announced today that customers can now legally bring their own wine into participating restaurants and enjoy it with their meals. A so-called "corkage fee" may apply in some establishments, while other venues may not require one.

The local BC wine industry and other advocates have been championing the "modernization" of liquor laws in our province to benefit consumers, wine producers and the restaurant industry. This Bring Your Own Wine (BYOW) decision follows other key moves by the federal and provincial governments on liquor policy. Last month MP Dan Albas' Private Member's Bill C311 – allowing the personal shipment of wine over provincial boundaries – became law after receiving unanimous support from both the House of Commons and Senate.

Then last week, Minister Rich Coleman challenged other Canadian jurisdictions to allow the shipment of wine over provincial boundaries without any additional taxes. BC now allows wine consumers to order any amount of Canadian produced wine, and no BC provincial taxes will be applied.

Changing legislation, particularly when it comes to liquor, is a complicated affair, which is why the quick pace of change happening in BC has been remarkable. Minister Coleman and the BC government are likely to receive laurels for responding to the public demand for more modern liquor laws. Wine law expert Mark Hicken describes the change as a 'win-win-win' for consumers, wine producers and restaurant owners.

"There is no downside to this decision," says Hicken. "First, people often want to be able to drink a wine of their own choice. You might have a bottle stored away for a special occasion, and now you can bring it to your favourite restaurant. For BC wineries it's great because now you can buy a bottle in a local winery and bring it with you to a restaurant. And finally, restaurants that might have struggled to get customers in during a weeknight will have an extra incentive, such as lowering or waiving corkage fees on those evenings. It's just a great decision all round."

In Montréal the tradition of “Apportez Votre Vin” (Translation: Bring Your Own Wine) has made restaurant dining more attractive. In the UK, BYOW has been described as a "revolution" in the dining experience. There are even online listings of which restaurants allow BYOW, and what the corkage fees are (if any). Expect an enterprising web provider to follow suit in BC soon. BC follows neighbouring provinces Alberta and Manitoba, which implemented BYOW laws earlier. For a well-reasoned article on the benefits of BYOW, see this story at

We here at BC Wine Lover tip our hat to Minister Coleman and BC's restaurant industry for welcoming this important legislative change. Here is today's release from the BC government:

Bring your own wine to B.C. restaurants

Minister Rich Coleman announced today that British Columbians can now bring their own bottle of wine into participating restaurants and enjoy it 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. "Today's change does just that – it allows customers to pair their favourite wine with their favourite restaurant."

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.

"The government continues to introduce common-sense solutions such as the Bring Your Own Wine program. This gives industry the needed flexibility to get people out and dine more," said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the British Columbia Restaurant and Food Service Association. "More business will result in positive economic impacts such as increased employment and downstream benefits to suppliers of the industry. This is a very innovative, flexible and common-sense policy."

This change is supported by the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association and the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. Participation in this service by licensed restaurants is voluntary.

"Restaurateurs, especially those with limited wine inventories, welcome the option of allowing their guests to bring their own wine," said Mark von Schellwitz, vice president of Western Canada for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. "This liquor policy change allows those restaurant guests who want to celebrate a special event by bringing a vintage bottle of wine from their own cellar to their favourite restaurant to do so."

Licensees are still liable if patrons are over-served 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.

"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," continued Coleman.

These changes build on the B.C. government's commitment to modernize B.C.'s liquor laws.

– post by Mike Klassen

25 thoughts on “Bring your own wine comes to BC restaurants–corkage fees may apply

  1. The problem is, that all of the wine that you can bring to these restaurants must still be bought through government channels. Unless the laws change so that consumers can bring their own homemade wine to restaurants, the only one who wins is the province, because no matter what, they are getting their 90% in taxes.

  2. The upside is our local wine industry will benefit, and restaurants can become more attractive by having this flexibility. I take your point though, Kira.

  3. What about “Modernizing” the drinking/driving laws to not be so lenient???? PRIORITIES!!!!!!!!!!!! This is an election ploy.

    1. @Nona, lenient? We are not allowed to have open liquor in public, we are not allowed to be drunk in public. Our drinking and driving limits are some of the most strict in the world, two pieces of I.D for any purchase. We must purchase through government agencies and prices for alcohol are some of the highest in the world due to taxation. Liquor licenses in the city have a waiting list as long as your arm. There is a firm no 24 hour serving policy while many other countries (england, Ireland, New Zealand) introduce beer and wine to youth as young as 16.

      Would prohibition better suit your taste?

      1. Well put Tom! I remember being in Australia in the late 80’s and BYOW was just totally fantastic. Went out to restaurants way more often than normally would have.

  4. The restaurants will still wish to make a markup on wine. No doubt some will charge outrageous corkage. I plan to check their corkage policy before dining out.

  5. As one in the wine industry on the restaurant side I couldn’t be more thrilled. This can only enhance the diners’ experience and allows us to see even more fun and interesting wines come through our doors. Many restaurants in the states that I know of respectfully request that patrons not bring in wine that is already listed on the restaurant’s wine list and corkage fees are typically very reasonable. The guest must understand that these establishments must still cover the cost of glassware and labor.

  6. This may actually get me out to a restaurant once in a while.

    I’m curious about Kira’s point about bringing homemade wine. Is this explicitly prevented in the new law? If so, how would it even be enforced?

    I’m drinking homemade Sauv Blanc right now poured out of a Babich Sauv Blanc bottle. How would the restaurant know or even care as long as they get their corkage fee?

  7. Can someone get a list of “participating” this was tried in BC earlier 2003 or 4 I went to a restaurant in Penticton that charged a very reasonable corkage fee.

    Only on going problem was that it was the only “participating” restaurant we could find! We did spemd some time phoning around Penticton and could only find one restaurant that permitted BYOW.

    We have done BYOW in NZ and Works really well and avoids the outrageous prices charged by restaurants for mediocre wines.

  8. There needs to be a few more questions asked about this before I get excited about being a participant in this. As it is the establishment bears all of the responsibility for serving alcohol, (the Gov’t none ) to the point of making sure the customer gets all the way home in some cases. The Gov’t requires that everyone involved in serving liqour must have a serving it right certificate and is trained not to overserve patrons at the risk of very heavy fines and licence suspensions. As it is now a server can control the amount being served because she serves the table herself and can keep track of consumption. How are they going to do this if customers are bringing in their own booze and serving themselves? Say a group of 5 want to celebrate by each bring a bottle of wine and then later go out to the car or the LRS store on the corner for another 1 or 2 later. How can you control that? Where does the responsibility lie now? Do we have to ask customers to declare how many bottles they are bring in? Many restaurants have under age staff who are not allowed to pour alcohol so that leaves it in the hands of the customer to pour their own. And what do you do about the table that brings in several very expensive wines and gets to the point of over consumption. Do you confiscate their very expensive wine and tell them they have had enough? I have always thought that sticking a cork back in the bottle and sending them on their way to drive home is a little risky.
    At first glance it sounds like a great idea but it doesn’t jive with the rest of our liqour laws. The wine lobby and LRS operators have done a great job of changing some of the antiquated rules in this province but there are issues here that need to be talked about before I go along with this one.

  9. This works so well in other jurisdictions with very reasonable corkage fees (read none or a minimal $5). If a restaurant charges an unreasonable corkage fee – don’t go but tell them why. Perhaps a two tiered system would work, a $5 fee until 6:00 for people who are watching their pennies and a higher fee for the more popular later times? I know that we will go out more often to restaurants with reasonable corkage fees but will avoid those businesses that are unreasonable.

  10. As a restaurant owner, I cannot believe this is the only idea the B.C. Government could come up with to “entice” people to eat out more often. You’ve almost killed the industry with the combination of HST and the strict drink driving laws, and now we get to take another hit via cheap patrons who wish to saunter in with their own wine. Give your heads a shake and really think about how this proposal is going to even more damage. I’m beginning to wonder if it really is time for a change. Not NDP, God knows…but the Conservatives are looking mighty attractive right now.

    1. So your restaurant doesn’t have to participate. I hope that all the “cheap patrons who who wish to saunter in with their own wine” avoid your restaurant like the plague. Are you aware of how condescending and mean spirited you sound?

      1. I don’t think it’s fair to call someone condescending and mean spirited when they are merely venting their frustration at the hammering small independent restaurants have suffered at the hands of the current government. I

  11. some answers

    1)you have to hand your bottle over to the restaurant staff on arrival
    2) only the restaurant staff are permitted to servve your wine
    3) you can take the balance home with you

    presume the resposibility for drinking too much is still the establishment’s they are still serving you the wine

    wait to see how many reataurants participate
    presume not many they will get together to stop this happening so we are still gouged for wine
    tourists do stay away from restaurants because of the price of wine
    i never order wine in a restaurant why pay 3 or 4 times the retail valuse that is already grossly overtaxed and then tip on top the tax and the high price
    this is no solution

    1. so you’re going to look at your bill and figure out a tip based minus the corkage fee?
      Why would you do that?

      1. I guess you’re not cheap and that you have never worked as a server. You would be surprised how people calculate –and justify– the tips they leave.

  12. MarveyM agree 100% but this is a problem of how much are establishments paying servers and how much do the (establishment) rely on tips to increase income of servers.

    If servers are paid a “living wage” the grats are not so important. At present grats are a subsidy to the owners.

    i know everyone knows this but this is a big part of the overall problem.

  13. I would love to get payed 25 bucks an hour as they do in other countries,But as a diner don’t expect to pay the same prices for food and wine you have become accustomed to. Obviously the hike in wages for restuarant staff would raise the cost of product so the owner could pay the staff and keep his doors open. And not to mention the incentive potential gratuity to motivate the server to go above and beyond the call of duty to provide an outstanding dining experience. I absolutely love serving and have been doing this for 30 yrs now ,but it”s becoming harder and harder to make a living doing this. All of us experienced servers will be forced to pursue other employment leaving the door open for far less experienced people who will use there jobs as a stepping stone to another future and have no incentive to provide stellar service people have come to expect. Again, I love serving people and hope I am not forced to seek a different financial path.

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