Ontario laws changed in January 2005 to allow patrons to bring their own wine to restaurants, but somehow we’ve never done it. Even with a 100 per cent mark up on the wine list, by the time we bought a bottle and paid corkage from $10-$35/bottle it didn’t seem like we would save much. Also, when my husband and I go out alone we rarely drink more than half a litre of wine, and once the bottle is open we can’t take the rest with us.
Ontario restaurants also don’t actively encourage their clientele to bring their own wine. When I did some research for this blog, I was surprised to discover we could have brought our own wine to many places where we dined in the last year including Cava, Segar, Globe Bistro, Paese and Mildred’s Temple Kitchen.
No doubt BYOB is more pervasive in Quebec because of the distinction made between licensed restaurants that can sell alcoholic beverages and those restaurants that can only serve alcoholic beverages (i.e., wine customers have purchased elsewhere). Ontario establishments with a liquor license can do both, so for many promoting their own wine list can be more lucrative.
But some restaurants in the GTA realize there are times when reducing or eliminating corkage altogether makes good business sense. For example, Splendido typically charges $30/bottle but this year corkage was free for the month of August; Biff’s Bistro charges $25/bottle, but corkage is free on Sundays; DT bistro has no corkage fee on Wednesdays; and, Eastside Marios at 151 Front Street has eliminated corkage altogether.
If you are going out with a group and you know you will finish several bottles of wine, depending on the price range of the vintage you select and the corkage fee applied, bringing your own may save you money.
Also, if one of your favourite restaurants or a restaurant you have been dying to try doesn’t charge corkage on certain days of the week, it may be worth it to shift your “date night” to take advantage of the savings.
To do your own analysis on a case by case basis, first check out the list on Corkage Toronto and then follow up with calls to the restaurants you are interested in to verify their current policies. As the Corkage Toronto list does not purport to be comprehensive or up to date, it also pays to ask about BYOB and corkage fees whenever you make a dinner reservation.