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February 9, 2011

Corkage, moving ahead in Virginia

Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws, one of the groups working to get corkage laws changed in Maryland, was in touch today.

Corkage's chances in Virginia got a major boost last night, when SB1292 passed the Virginia Senate by 27 to 12 vote. Corkage is allowed in Washington, DC, and in Pennsylvania but not in Virginia or Maryland.

The MBBWL email quoted the following statement by Lynne Breaux, the president of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. SB1292 is the bill being advanced in the Virginia Legislature -- it passed the Virginia Senate last night by a 27 to 13 vote. (Update: I just spoke with Breaux, who talked about her experience with corkage as a D.C. restaurant owner: "It worked. And, talking with our members, it works for them, too. And if you don't want to do it, you don't have to do it. It was never a problem."

“As a northern Virginia restaurateur, and a member of Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, we wish to inform you of SB1292, which allows patrons to bring wine into an ABC licensed establishment for consumption on the premises for a fee.

We support the rights of consumers to have a choice, and we see no evil in allowing patrons to BYOB, so long as there is no restriction on a restaurant’s right to charge a service fee or so called corkage fee. Restaurant operators can assure payment of costs incurred and a profit through the imposition of such fees. No establishment should be required to allow BYOB, but it should be an option, just as it is in the District of Columbia and other jurisdictions. Not having such an option puts Virginia restaurateurs at a competitive disadvantage in locations that are in close proximity to areas that allow BYOB, thereby depriving Virginia of sales, and the attendant sales tax and revenue. The availability of this option allows restaurants to attract the high end wine aficionado who enjoys dining out, but prefers the option of bringing wine from their own collection, or from other sources. It represents a marketing opportunity, and a way to stay competitive."

Choice for consumers is a positive for all, and should be encouraged.  SB1292 allows another choice for consumers. SB1292 passed the Senate today and is going to the House for consideration, and we urge you to weigh in on this issue by contacting your State Delegate.”

The MBBWL email points out that corkage in Virginia was opposed by the Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association (VHTA), just as corkage in this state has been opposed by its counterpart in Maryland, the Restaurant Association in Maryland (RAM).

One reason why VHTA opposes corkage:

"SB 1292 will create confusion among customers when restaurants set different policies and corkage fees!  Some restaurants will allow and others will not.  Some will charge corkage fees and others will not. Corkage fees may vary widely from restaurant to restaurant."

One reason why RAM opposed corkage:

"Our member restaurants fear that, as a result, the law change will...create confusion about serving control and regulatory compliance."

I'm sorry, but this this one particular objection is so lame that it makes my eyes cross. It pretends, among other things, that the Internet doesn't exist. I previously posted this one guide to varying policies in Washington, DC, published by one district wine shop. There are many such online guides -- it takes about three seconds to Google up one of them. Granted, they not be all continuously updated --

So, today, I say, if anyone in the Maryland legislature asks:

I  will maintain and publish the complete guide to varying corkage policies at Maryland restaurants. Seriously. Hell, I'll do it for Virginia, too. 


Posted by Richard Gorelick at 10:03 AM | | Comments (1)


Funny thing about a society that is fighting for rights of Consumer to BYOB alongside basic rights and protections for LGBT adults.

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About this blog

You are reading the archives. For updated blog posts about the Maryland food scene, see Richard Gorelick's new Baltimore Diner 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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