Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wine Wednesday -- Indiana Laws re: Corkage

I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but a comment in another thread reminded me. The corkage fee -- a surcharge to your bill (usually $15) if you bring your own wine into a restaurant -- is currently one of the most misunderstood wine issues in Indiana today. (The second is interstate shipping -- we'll tackle that another day.)


Q: Can you bring wine into a restaurant and can they charge a corkage fee?

A: In Indiana? No, it is not legal. Indiana does not have a corkage fee law. For many years, enforcement agencies turned a blind eye to restaurants who let patrons bring wine in, but last year, the issue was in the spotlight. Officials stepped up enforcement and a few restaurants were fined. (And very few will risk their liquor licenses to please a few wine geeks.) Today, you'll occasionally find a restaurant that allows it, but mostly from lack of knowledge. For customers who have wine lockers, the law requires them to purchase wine from the restaurant. Additionally, you as a customer can be at risk if you bring your own since it's a class C misdemeanor "for a person to bring the bottle into a licensed premise, for the person's own use, to convey or consume at the licensed premises." As one local wine connoisseur and attorney put it:

Indiana most certainly needs a corkage fee law that allows restaurants to choose to allow people to bring in wine. I am sure there is a reason the wholesalers do not want to allow this (they are the strongest lobby) but I suspect it is shortsighted as they would sell more wine. Maybe the margins to restaurants are higher than to retailers, but the overall increase in the sale of wine should offset it. I personally do not go to restaurants as I have a wine cellar and cannot fathom paying $47 for a grocery store wine instead of a nice bottle from my cellar. I either cook at home, get carry out, or go to wine tasting dinners.

So, if you were planning on taking that $30 pinot noir with you to dinner at your favorite local restaurant, don't be surprised if they ask you to take it back to your car and pay $120 for a similar bottle on the wine list purchased from a wholesaler. If you have a local stop that does allow you to bring your own, then do it discreetly since it's putting them -- and you -- at risk.

11 comments:

Donald said...

Thanks for the corkage info... I had no idea it was illegal. Not surprising given how (a) backwards some of our laws are and (b) our politicians do whatever big business wants.

CorrND said...

This is a shame. I just thought it was a market-driven thing here, not actual law that restaurants couldn't charge corkage.

My brother lives up in Evanston, IL and it's apparently quite common for new restaurants to open without a liquor license and allow people to BYO whatever. It's an excellent way for (a) the restaurant to test a concept without having to shell out for the license up front and (b) the patron to test out a restaurant without having to shell out for ridiculously priced drinks.

braingirl said...

Donald -- don't kid yourself for a second that it's a function of backwards laws in Indiana. Having corkage fees be illegal serves some very specific business interests.

re: no liquor license. I'll get clarification, but the laws are different here, too, when it comes to places without a liquor license. However, most restaurants will agree that going without a liquor license is a much riskier--and less profitable-- enterprise.

Jeff said...

Good post. I tried to pay corkage twice this past year at the same restaurant. Early in the year--no problem. Later in the year it was no dice.

I didn't realize there was a crack down. It's a shame. This is a nice public service to wine consumers.

Jeff
www.goodgrape.com

Anonymous said...

With all the things this state could be spending money on, they're wasting money on stepped up enforcement of this?!?!

Donald said...

braingirl:

I agree with you (see part b or my comment) and I suspect it IS more about serving some lobby's special interest rather than a backwards law.

Now about buying alcohol on Sundays...

braingirl said...

Heh -- now *that's* just plain backwards.

Phil said...

Perhaps we should all send an encouraging message to our representatives to change this fact.

lilbirdy said...

Ha.

Sunday laws are every bit a function of business interests!

Talk to legislators about package-store (stand alone liquor store) owners. They fight fiercely, especially against competition from grocery stores (which now often have a pharmacy inside and thus can sell hard liquor), and this fight includes Sunday sales. The package stores give big $$ to legislators and they do not want Sunday sales because then they would have to be open on Sunday to compete w. grocery stores that are already open. Except for Super Bowl and Race Day, liquor sales would still be very slow on Sunday and they don't want the overhead of being open or to lose business to people getting in the habit of buying booze at grocery stores on Sunday if liquor stores weren't open.

Of course legislators can hide behind the fact that it's tradition or for the churches, instead of because of the big $$ of lobbyists.

SCUBAchef said...

lilbirdy said:
"Except for Super Bowl and Race Day, liquor sales would still be very slow on Sunday and they don't want the overhead of being open"

Why would a Sunday be any slower than say, Tuesday or Wednesday? If anything, I often do more shopping (grocery, and liquor if it was available) on a Sunday than most weekdays.

wank said...

Okay, I'm not working thru lunch because this blog is so enteratining...

"{L}iquor sales...would be slow on Sunday" makes the assumption that consumers only buy liquor on days they'll drink it. Even if we accept THAT premise, I'll bet you donuts to dollars your local booze shop would happily pull in the bucks Sunday sales would generate, ESPECIALLY during Colts season and race weekends. (And re: grocery stores vs. liquor stores, I for one can't buy my faves at Kroger, gotta go to the local corner retailer.) I've lived in CA, MD and NY, and the liquor stores did brisk Sunday business in cities much smaller than Indy. This blue law is just as dumb as the one requiring car dealers to close up on the Sabbath.