Some unlicensed BYOB restaurants may charge a corkage fee (a charge to open and serve your wine), but most of the good ones will not.
So what about bringing your own bottle into a licensed establishment?
Licensed Restaurants & Corkage Policies
Despite what some restaurateurs may tell you, it is not illegal to bring your own wine or beer into a restaurant in Pennsylvania. Restaurants may, on the other hand, refuse to serve you if you bring your own bottle. That is their right.
For best results, if you'd like to bring a bottle to a licensed restaurant:
- Call ahead and ask permission. This allows you to identify yourself as a new or loyal patron who is considerate enough to seek approval before you impose your request upon them.
- Ask about a corkage charge. Remember that you are costing the restaurant a fair profit by bringing your own wine, so a corkage charge in the range of $5-20, depending upon the restaurant and their wine list, is fair when patronizing a licensed dining establishment. Ask about accepted bottle sizes, a magnum may have a higher corkage fee than a standard 750ml bottle. Be wary, however, of restaurants who charge unreasonably high corkage fees, or who impose a fee based on the expense of the type of wine you bring. Some wine-friendly establishments, however, may waive the corkage fee when a bottle is also purchased off their wine list.
- Don't duplicate. The most imporant rule when bring your own bottle to a licensed establishment is to bring a wine that is not already on their list. It's just plain tacky to try and save money by bringing something they already sell themselves.
- Bring something good. The next most important rule is to bring a really good bottle. Appearing cheap and tacky is not a good route to being welcomed with your own bottle into a licensed establishment. Expensive is good. Rare and expensive is even better. Unusual or offbeat works as well.
- Share the love. If the restaurant manager, owner, or sommelier appears interested, invite them to share a taste. This simple gesture will go a long way to allowing a repeat exerience and, possibly, a reduced corkage fee.
- Tip well. Not only have you cut into the restaurant's profit margin by bringing your own wine, you have also cut down on your food server's tip. Demonstrate your class by bumping up the tip to an amount on par with what you would have tipped them had you ordered from the restaurant's wine list.
Follow these common sense tips, and you're on your way to enjoying a restaurant's great food paired with your great wine.