Beer "corking fees" at restaurants

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Stugotzo, Sep 3, 2013.


What would you consider a fair charge for a beer "corking fee"?

  1. $2 per 750ml bottle; $1 per 12 oz. bottle

  2. $4 per 750ml bottle; $2 per 12 oz. bottle

  3. $6 per 750ml bottle; $3 per 12 oz. bottle

  4. $8 per 750ml bottle; $4 per 12 oz. bottle

  5. $10 per 750ml bottle; $5 per 12 oz. bottle

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  1. Stugotzo

    Stugotzo Initiate (0) Jun 13, 2012 Florida

    Searched the forums and didn't see too much on this.

    I'm hosting a surprise birthday party for my fiance at a nice restaurant in St. Pete this coming Saturday. Their beer list leaves something to be desired, especially considering their hundreds of bottles of wine and expensive dishes. The beers they do sell are the usual suspects (BMC and their light cousins, and a few imports... Stella, Hoegaarden, Amstel Light and Heineken). The only "craft" beer listed was "Sierra Nevada" (yes, just the brewery name listed, not the actual beer... I do know it's "Pale Ale" as I've dined there a few months ago). Domestics were $4.25 and Imports were $5 (except Hoegaarden was $6 and Sierra Nevada was $5).

    There will be 5 other couples with us, and nearly all the men are into good beer (and some of the ladies may want to try as well). I sent the restaurant an e-mail last night and am waiting to hear back if they do allow outside beer brought in, and how much they might charge for "corking fees". But, I wanted to see if anyone here had any experience with this and what you may consider a fair charge.

    I was hoping to bring with me the following:

    750s (1 of each):
    12 oz. (4 of each):
  2. sahd-1

    sahd-1 Disciple (352) Jul 2, 2013 Illinois

    In Chicagoland I've seen anywhere from $5 to $20 per bottle (of wine) and that's only if they allow outside alcohol at all. Alcohol is usually just too big a part of a restaurant's profit for them to go quietly into the night.
  3. Stugotzo

    Stugotzo Initiate (0) Jun 13, 2012 Florida

    I have no problem paying what would be "normal" profit on a bottle. For instance, they're buying BMC for under a buck a bottle and selling them for $4.25, a profit of just over $3. I expect the corking fee to be in the $2-3 per bottle range. I'm just hoping they don't come back and want to charge $5+ per 12 oz. bottle. That's adding insult to injury, in my opinion. They end up nearly doubling their profit, they don't have to provide any beer. The alternative would be to buy their awful beer. If they come back with $5 corking fee, it's a no-win situation.
  4. basickness

    basickness Aspirant (222) Apr 20, 2013 Pennsylvania

    if you know what you're bringing, tell them you have 8 bottles of beer, and how much they will charge to open them all. $10 per bottle is absurd! (sidenote: i know in PA that bars that have a liquor license are not permitted to have any alcohol on site that was not purchased thru the license)
    PumaSaysRawrr and JrGtr like this.
  5. crusian

    crusian Crusader (788) May 14, 2010 Oregon

    My vote is missing, they are all too high! :slight_smile:
  6. mani

    mani Initiate (188) Jun 16, 2012 New Jersey

    Another avenue to look at; I've asked restaurants to bring in certain wine/beers for special occasions if it's a decent size party. Some restaurants are willing to work with you this way too. It might give them some push to bring in other beers on a regular basis. Something to consider if they come back with they don't allow outside alcohol or the corkage fee is insane. You most likely won't get the stellar beers on your list, but you might be able to get some really good ones...
  7. RBassSFHOPit2ME

    RBassSFHOPit2ME Meyvn (1,056) Mar 1, 2009 California

    Great thread topic. I was just having this conversation this past holiday weekend with my server at a high end restaurant. I asked her "If I brought in a special bottle of beer, 22-24oz, would the corkage fee be any lower than a bottle of wine?" (In my mind, I was referring to the Boulevard Love Child #3 I bought for this vacation)

    She then replied no, due to the volume in the bottle. It's very close to the same volume as a bottle of wine, so they would charge by volume. Corkage fee there was $20. I paid roughly the same for the bottle, so there was no way I would have paid another $20 to drink it there. In this case however, I feel the corkage fee should be cut in half with beer, being that it's beer and mostly more inexpensive than wine. Even at $10 corkage, I'm not sure I'd pay that either.

    At the end of the day, it's the restaurant's business. I don't have a problem with this practice. I just won't be opening a beer there and can most easily find an alternative on their menu. Calling in ahead of time would be the best route to avoid any troubles.
    Scrapss and Stugotzo like this.
  8. Stugotzo

    Stugotzo Initiate (0) Jun 13, 2012 Florida

    That's definitely worth pursuing if they don't allow my beers, or the fee is ridiculous. Thanks for the feedback.
  9. Stugotzo

    Stugotzo Initiate (0) Jun 13, 2012 Florida

    I look at it more by the "number of drinks". While some of the beers on my list are high ABV, they're still all (except Forgotten Island) less ABV than wine (generally ~ 13%). A 750ml bottle of St. Bernardus Tokyo will yield half as many drinks as a normal bottle of wine.
    VictorWisc and RBassSFHOPit2ME like this.
  10. Providence

    Providence Crusader (712) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island

    I would imagine that avenue is more likely to happen. Maybe it's a regional things, but I have never heard of anyone asking to bring their own booze to a place (unless of course it's BYOB) and then place being ok with it as long as they got a corking fee. I have on the other hand, heard of people that would talk to the manager in advance of an event to ensure that there was a good stock of special beer or wine around the night of the festivities that they could then purchase at the price the restaurant decided.
    Scrapss and Stugotzo like this.
  11. Stugotzo

    Stugotzo Initiate (0) Jun 13, 2012 Florida

    Wine corking fees are very common all over the Tampa Bay Area. I moved here from Upstate/Western New York... it was commonplace there as well.
    woemad, SatlyMalty and Providence like this.
  12. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Initiate (0) Dec 9, 2011 Colorado

    Wow. I didn't think I'd ever see a "corking fee" for beer, no matter how good the beer was. I worked many years in the restaurant industry [but always at places that had liquor licenses so customers couldn't bring their own].
    I never could understand how someone would pay an additional amount just to bring something with them and drink it at a place that didn't have a liquor license. If a place didn't have a license, for whatever reason, I would expect that they would allow to bring you own just to compete with those places that did have licenses. Otherwise, unless the food is other wordly, why would you go there if you wanted to have a drink or two as well. Many of these places have opened prior to receiving a license so what better way to build your business than to allow people to bring their own until the license is granted.

    A place that had a license but would allow you to BYOB [but as far as I know, not in NYS] is entitled to charge a fee since you're not buying their booze.

    But this is just my opinion so you don't all have to dogpile me.
    Scrapss, muddyh2oblues and VictorWisc like this.
  13. ChanChan

    ChanChan Devotee (434) Dec 12, 2009 California

    $1 per bottle!
  14. ilovermont

    ilovermont Initiate (50) Jul 18, 2012 Vermont

    This may be your best shot. Alcohol/liquor control laws obviously vary from state to state, but regulation in many states prohibits outside alcohol being brought into an establishment that has an existing liquor license.
    Stugotzo likes this.
  15. mani

    mani Initiate (188) Jun 16, 2012 New Jersey

    I've never been to a place without a license that charges a corking fee. That's ridiculous. We have a lot of restaurants here in NJ that are BYOB. But it's no corking fee.
    EBeckett3, kodt and otispdriftwood like this.
  16. mani

    mani Initiate (188) Jun 16, 2012 New Jersey

    I think this is too low. While one can look at it as just opening a bottle, you have to be fair to the restaurant. In theory it is loosing a beer sale. My guess is they make more than $1 per beer. I have no issue paying what the profit would be on a beer sale. I feel that is fair to the restaurant and the customer.
    jrnyc likes this.
  17. MatthewPlus

    MatthewPlus Aspirant (271) Jan 2, 2013 Idaho

    i marked the highest amount in the poll, which (at least for the 750), runs most analogously with wine corkage fees. If i brought beer to a restaurant, i would expect them to treat it the same way that they would a bottle of wine, $10-$15. I wouldnt have a problem paying that at all. How much do you think a Huna would be if they carried it at the restaurant? $30? $40? I know its a little bit different, but i believe Berns charges $70 for Legacy...
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  18. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,107) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    That's 'cause it's illegal in NJ:
    ...that seems like a reasonable charge to me. :wink:
  19. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Initiate (0) Dec 9, 2011 Colorado

    Another thought. Corking fees are charged for wine presumably because it does take some expertise/finesse to open a wine bottle properly. With the exception of a few corked beers, how much expertise/finesse does it take to open a beer bottle? [and the bottle opening video with the chainsaws, etc. doesn't count, sorry].
  20. Stugotzo

    Stugotzo Initiate (0) Jun 13, 2012 Florida

    Is that a 2-year or 4-year degree? :confused:
  21. leedorham

    leedorham Crusader (742) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    $5 is pretty much minimum corkage in my experience. If these $1-2 places exist anywhere near me, I'm unaware.

    Honestly, if I were running a place, I'd want to make it a somewhat prohibitive price. It seems like easy money for the bar but BYOB is a pain in the ass in some ways. You gotta keep people from opening their own bottles (and they'll do it, if you're not paying attention) and it's harder to prevent over-serving if you aren't really familiar with everything that's being brought in. You could have a couple dudes come in and start cracking bombers of 9-10% beer one after the other then end up puking in your parking lot and driving over someone's lawn on the way home.
  22. jivex5k

    jivex5k Initiate (0) Apr 13, 2011 Florida

    Reading your post, it seems like most of the attendees would appreciate a good beer selection.
    If the restaurant of choice isn't set in stone, I'd recommend looking for a nice place that has a good beer selection.
    Though, the viability of this suggestion is largely dependent on your area.
    Where in FL are you?
    If you're in South Florida, I'd highly recommend The Sybarite Pig. Not only is the food amazing, so is the beer.
    They had Barrel Aged BORIS on tap at one point, and right now they are selling bottles of Cantillon Vigeronne.
    Stugotzo likes this.
  23. ilovermont

    ilovermont Initiate (50) Jul 18, 2012 Vermont

    BYOB restaurants take on liability (for patrons that might do something tragic like wrap their car around a tree or kill someone after drinking and leaving), even if the restaurant doesn't have a liquor license. BYOB restaurants take on this liability (while forgoing the "rewards" of selling alcohol to generate revenue/profit) simply by allowing patrons to consume at their establishment, even if the restaurant isn't directly serving alcohol.

    Not that a $1-5 corking fee monetarily offsets the risk of a six to seven figure lawsuit or the cost of insurance, but some establishments may view it as such. Or maybe the corking fees are just viewed as a cash grab opportunity.
  24. Andrew041180

    Andrew041180 Defender (651) Mar 15, 2013 Massachusetts

    I thought the idea behind the corking fee is that you enjoy a really expensive bottle that you otherwise would not be able to find/afford at the given restaurant. I guess the same policy would extend to beer at the prices you list. I hope it works out for you, I would think that by bringing 12 people to this place you would have a little leverage. I also hope you have a designated driver.

    Personally? I would have a couple glasses of wine before forking over anything more than a buck or two for corking fees on bottles that I had already purchased. But I also like wine and am fairly frugal.
    Stugotzo likes this.
  25. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Initiate (0) Dec 9, 2011 Colorado

    2 year associates degree, I believe.
    Stugotzo likes this.
  26. utopiajane

    utopiajane Poo-Bah (2,556) Jun 11, 2013 New York

    Speak to the manager. If you are bringing in a large party to his restaurant he may want to accommodate you knowing full well that there are many celebrations in life and you might choose to spend those times at his establishment. However if he says no straight up I wouldn't try to argue. I am not sure about the laws concerning liquor license but if those are what is preventing this, then have an after party and open the beer there. I would expect to pay no more than $8-$10 per bottle corking fee for 750 ml cork and caged bottles. Those have to be stored in their fridge until it is appropriate to serve them, and a waiter has to spend his time opening them. That's why the fee.
    Stugotzo likes this.
  27. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Initiate (0) Dec 9, 2011 Colorado

    Didn't consider the liability angle, especially since the establishment has less control over what and how much you are drinking, but as you say, the fee hardly offsets the cost of the insurance or the lawsuit.
  28. opwog

    opwog Zealot (587) Jun 16, 2008 Minnesota

    If you knew going in that good beer was of interest to half or more of the attendees, then why didn't you just book this at a place with a better selection? You may not find such a specific list as what you are proposing to bring, but I am sure that finding a place with at least a handful of solid beers couldn't be that hard in 2013. At this point, at least in my travels, it is almost harder to find selections in nice restaurants that are simply limited to one SN, except when in the more rural parts of the country. Keep in mind that this is a B-Day party for your fiance and unless she is also a huge beer geek, you do not want the selected beer list to overshadow the fact that you are all getting together to enjoy each other's company.
  29. Stugotzo

    Stugotzo Initiate (0) Jun 13, 2012 Florida

    We're in the St. Pete area.

    Since the purpose of the evening is my fiance's birthday, and it's a surprise, I made the reservation at one of her favorite restaurants, and where we had our first date.

    So, while I would love to just change venues, the beer list isn't that important to force me to do so. If it's not in the cards to bring the better beer, I'll just "suck it up" and have a bunch of SN Pale Ales. I could do worse, that's for sure. Just would be much more special to have that "Life is Like" with a nice chocolate dessert.
    Scrapss, YogiBeer and LeRose like this.
  30. mani

    mani Initiate (188) Jun 16, 2012 New Jersey

    It's in the first line of his post...:wink:
  31. rgordon

    rgordon Meyvn (1,093) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    My experience has always been that if it's legal, all you need to do is have a nice conversation with the GM, etc. to determine a fee, and often it just so happens that the policy is very agreeable (low corkage fee, or none), depending on party size and menu plans. Having a good prior relationship with an establishment is always the best avenue. Reasonable people generally make decent decisions.
    Stugotzo likes this.
  32. Stugotzo

    Stugotzo Initiate (0) Jun 13, 2012 Florida

    See my other post for the reason for the venue choice. :wink:

    Thanks for the relationship advice. :wink:

    I rarely drink enough to even get buzzed in public. Having said that, my fiance will be driving home anyway, as she cannot drink at the moment.

    She's also from Belgium, as our her parents, that will be in attendance. They're not "beer geeks", nor "snobs", but they do appreciate that I enjoy the better things in life, and that they had a part in creating the monster. :slight_smile:
    Schwantz likes this.
  33. Stugotzo

    Stugotzo Initiate (0) Jun 13, 2012 Florida

    That's also a good point.

    I figure without drinks, just the food and tip (not the tax), it will be in the $500 range (~$35 per person for food plus 20% tip).
  34. surfcaster

    surfcaster Zealot (568) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina

    Have you asked them if they have a broader access? In the wine world, this is done for private parties all the time. Much of what is available is simply based on their experience/sales. Perhaps their supplier can get you access to a much broader selection ahead of time and who knows, expand their selection for your future visits to her favorite place. Win win.
  35. Stugotzo

    Stugotzo Initiate (0) Jun 13, 2012 Florida

    Still waiting to hear back from the "e-mail" (was really filling out a 'form' on their website). If I don't hear back by ~ dinner time, I'll call the restaurant tonight.

    Trying to do all this when I'm not home, so my fiance doesn't hear anything... the problems of trying to do a surprise party. Getting contact info of her friends was a major pain in the ass.
  36. surfcaster

    surfcaster Zealot (568) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina

    I do think it is comical that the vote here was for a "corkage" fee less than about half of the markup on a Budweiser. Alcohol is the leader in profit for most restaurants.
  37. Stugotzo

    Stugotzo Initiate (0) Jun 13, 2012 Florida

    So far, the weighted average is coming out to $4.47 per 750ml bottle; $2.23 per 12 oz. bottle.

    That $2.23 is about 75% of the markup on a Bud.
    sudsellier likes this.
  38. SatlyMalty

    SatlyMalty Initiate (0) Sep 12, 2012 Washington

    I've worked in several restaurants with corkage fees and I'll tell you this- I'm much more likely to "forget" including the corkage fee if the guest offers me a taste of whatever they brought in. I almost always decline but just appreciate the consideration.
  39. jeevo

    jeevo Aspirant (241) Nov 1, 2012 Pennsylvania

    To the original poster, I would be VERY surprised if they let you bring your own beer. I would almost bet the house that they will turn you down. Definitely sucks, as you want to be able to celebrate this occasion with friends and good food with your own good beer, but I just can't see them letting you do this.

    I'm not sure how or what the rules are, because I also thought that places that sold beer / liquor on site did were not allowed to allow outside alcohol, but two places I've eaten at in Pittsburgh, Casbah and Paris 66, allowed BYOB even though they had a bar in the restaurant.
  40. sweetesttaboo

    sweetesttaboo Initiate (0) Jan 20, 2011 California

    There is little precedent for this in most restaurants, which could work for you or against you. 750 ml bottles are in many ways analogous to bottles of wine, so I would expect that they would be inclined to charge wine corkage fees. I wouldn't even mess with the 12 oz. bottles; they'd have to come up with a price for it, and it will likely be high enough to discourage people from bringing coolers of their own beer (slippery slope thinking, sure, but still the kind of thing they're likely to consider).

    What are you expecting to do in terms of glassware? If that's their beer list, I expect you'll be in wine glasses and probably tying up six to twelve glasses per bottle. That's not insignificant. Bringing your own glassware puts you halfway to a picnic.

    Calibrate your expectations to something like: if they allow it at all, consider $10/750ml a bargain.
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