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April 29, 2009

Corkage fees and a new Annapolis restaurant



I was surprised to see today's Table Talk column on the Most Viewed Stories in Entertainment list just now. It's hard to find, which is one reason I always link to it. Of course, I think a Table Talk on corkage fees is more interesting than another story on Rihanna or Dancing With the Stars; but I don't expect other people to feel that way. Also someone is bound to point out that Most Viewed could be six people, as long as the other stories only got five.

I know that.

Meanwhile, the Earth Day Top 10 got reprinted with a few comments. Remember, it's always time to eat green -- even if it's a week after Earth Day. Or at least that's how I tried to justify it to our print readers.

(Glenn Fawcett/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:26 PM | | Comments (14)


Thanks for running these on your blog as well as in the paper. It is nice to keep up while I am out of town.

I have been a bartender in and around Baltimore for over 20 years and I think that a corkage fee is nothing to complain about. to the guy who whined about his wife getting a glass of water and not being charged for the glass, but he was for his wine, do you really think the fee is soley for the glass? How about the responsibility of the restaurant for having alcohol consumed on their property? I have been certified through the state to serve alcohol 7 times over the years at a cost to the restaurant, as are alot of employees and managers. without direct sales of alcohol, where do you expect the owners to come up with that money? how about cleaning supplies for when you spill your red wine? a wine chiller for your pinot grigio? bagging your left over wine? I could go on but as you can see, the fee is not just so you can use one of our glasses. I do not work in a place that allows you to bring in your own wine, thankfully, and as a wine drinker, I can't imagine bringing my own bottle from home. when I go to dinner, part of the experience is trying something new and with the popularity of "wine flights" you can try 3 different wines and not worry about paying $9 for a glass of something and end up not liking it. It is my opinion that those who complain of such a small fee for something that will greatly enhance your dining experience are those who also complain about other small details, like something being 86'ed, having to wait even though you made no reservation, once again I could go on. I will also go out on a limb and say these people aren't the best tippers either. In closing, if you do not want to pay the fee, get your food to go and set up a picnic, take it home and enjoy it there, or come up with something creative for you and your date like rent a boat and go for a late night cruise, anything but coming in to a restaurant and whine to someone who makes $3.18 an hour and depends on you leaving 15% so they can pay their bills, who can't do anything about the fee anyway.

baltimoron meet hippo, hippo meet baltimoron.

the baltimoron,
Um, do you know Springs1? I'm just askin'.

prepared to be burned at the post, Baltimoron. It's embedded to these people that "the customer is always right" and "no request is too big or two small." I appreciate the voice of reason, now I'll sit back and wait to see how five dollars can really ruin a meal.

Me, Myself, Personally, (all three of us) I don't have a problem with corkage fees. I don't think that the customer is always right either. I did take exception to some of the tactics that the baltimoron used to deal with "lousy tippers". I consider myself a pretty reasonable customer, and I know that I am a generous tipper. I dont make special requests/substitutions. I read the menu and order the dish that appeals to me. I know that there are customer out there that are unreasonable and demanding. I have several that I deal with (I'm not in the food service industry). I guess what I'm saying is that in just about every job, you have to take the good with the bad.

Okay, RayRay, since Hal has dropped his VoR (which stands for Voice of Reason) we may have to bestow it on you!


What time is it?
Any dogs in the house?
[woof woof woof woof]

Seriously though, I believe I'm the same type of customer as RayRay. I order off the menu, and tip at least 20% unless the service is abysmal.

I've never been a server myself, but I have known several and have heard the stories. Treat me honestly and fairly, and you will be rewarded in kind. If a server goes out of their way for me, they are rewarded in kind.

I have said before that a waiter friend of mine judges people by how they tip. Obviously, from reading some of the waiters' posts here this is not unique to him. I suspect in every line of work there is a different criterion in judging people.

Dahlink, I totally support passing the VoR to RayRay.

Or maybe it should be a rotating position.

Guess what? Waiters judge you by the way they THINK you are going to tip and treat you accordingly. That is what we call a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I've known dozens and dozens of servers over the years living in Little Italy and some (some!) size you up before you sit down and decide what level of service to give based upon any number of random factors including race, gender and ethnicity. One standard code is for O-Eighters, i.e., people from the 21208 zip code vaguely meaning Pikesville meaning ... Object all you want righteous servers but if I as a customer know these codes then there is something to pre-judgement, which is as I said a self-fulfilling prophesy. Even if it's not racial or ethnic when someone pre-judges someone on individual traits and decides that they are less worthy than other customers, don't you think the customer can tell? Europeans are particularly hated by servers too because they often don't tip at all, so they say.

And i said SOME servers but hardly an isolated group

You've got a point, Owlie. I've always been a good tipper (I spent a good deal of my misspent young adulthood as a cabbie, waitress or bartender). But, when I was young, I don't know how many times I walked into a restaurant and got eyerolls and worse service than the other tables.

On the rare occasions that I was served just like everyone else, the tip doubled. Or more, if the service was also correct for the level and type of restaurant (I don't care what side I'm served from in a booth at a diner).

I doubt any of us would admit to being a bad tipper. I know some of us are (I've slipped money on the table or to waitstaff when friends were being stingy). When I was working in tipped jobs, I expected a good tip for good service, but it really doesn't work that way. Different groups do *tend* to tip differently. Letting that nouveau riche woman who just jumped in my cab know that I expect her to stiff me on the fare and not tip at all is unprofessional and is going to guarantee the kind of behaviour I'm expecting.

Never did get a tip, though, from someone who was nouveau riche.

I'm impresses by the 08ers pull. Those are the people that bring their own teabag with them. Or ask for 8 slices of lemon to make lemonade out of their water and get upset when there is a charge for lemonade on the bill. I wish when I greated a table they would enlighten me on their tipping procedures "like hi, we tip 25% so take care of us or we're going to be the biggest pain in the arse and leave you 10% on top of it" That way you're not surprised with the service, and I'm not surprised with the tip, plus I have the ability to focus on people who are going to appreciate the attentiveness and professionalism from me.

The thing is, the water and the glass to drink it in IS charged. It's just rolled into the price of your meal. Along with the rent and the staffing and the utilities and the dishwashing machine service and the cleaning supplies and the... you get the picture. The corkage is just a teeny charge (in many restaurants) for a place to enjoy your drinks. In the proper glass with the proper accoutrements. Or, you know, stuff to have with your hooch.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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