BYOW uncorked on the North Shore
A vast wine collection boasting more than 80 reds and whites towers above Shallaw Kadir as he contemplates how his Lower Lonsdale restaurant will be affected by a new government program allowing diners to bring along their own wine.
You might think he’d be nervous about the change, but he’s not.
Even though Kadir, owner and head chef of Fishworks Restaurant near the North Vancouver waterfront, will lose out on profit from selling his own carefully selected wine list, he will be charging a corking fee like many other North Shore restaurants.
For $25, diners can bring their own wine which, in line with government regulations, will be opened and served by staff.
Bringing wine to Fishworks isn’t going to save customers money, but rather allow them to enjoy a fine vintage they were saving for a special occasion, Kadir says as he opens his extensive wine menu.
It would be less expensive to purchase his cheapest wine — a $25 Argentinean merlot — than to bring a wine from home and pay the corkage fee, he notes.
Kadir doesn’t expect to see cheap wine brought into his restaurant, but rather rare wine he doesn’t stock.
“For the past 10 years, I’ve had people call to ask if they can bring their own wine, and I’ve had to say no. But now they can and it’s a great idea for people who have good collections at home,” explains Kadir, who welcomes the new law because it encourages diners set on drinking a specific wine to eat out instead of cooking at home.
He wasn’t disappointed when the provincial government announced last month that wine could be brought into B.C. restaurants, in an attempt to modernize its liquor laws and follow suit with Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and the United Kingdom.
The program has been dubbed BYOW instead of BYOB because it doesn’t include other alcoholic drinks.
However, bringing a bottle into Fishworks would ignore Kadir’s carefully selected wine list, which he created to match the flavours of his West Coast-inspired cuisine.
His servers, who all have a first-level sommelier certificate, are also able to recommend the best wine pairing that won’t overpower the food.
But not to fret, Kadir is willing to work with diners who still want to bring their own bottle.
“[Customers] could call ahead and we could recommend a wine from their collection to match the dinner they want, or we can create a dish that suits the wine they’re bringing,” he says, noting that he supports whatever option diners choose, even if they opt for a non-traditional pairing.
While customers won’t save money from bringing in the cheapest wine, those with a fine vintage at home could benefit.
Recently, diners at Fishworks brought in a 13-year-old, $100 California cabernet that if sold by the restaurant would have been marked-up more than the $25 corkage fee. In the end, they saved money and had their rare wine served at the restaurant.
“We don’t mind”
An informal survey of North Shore restaurants by The Outlook shows the average corkage fee to be around the $20 mark, ranging from as little as $2 and topping out at $40.
Keeping the corkage fee cheap at $2 is key to attracting customers says Noah Cantor, own er of Vera’s Burger Shack near 18th and Lonsdale. He hopes his cheap corkage fee will attract customers who want to save money while dining out.
Although his quick-eat joint serves wine with its burgers and hotdogs, burger ‘n’ beer deals are a more popular option.
That may change now that customers can bring in their own wine, which will be opened and poured by staff, at a minimal charge instead of relying on the restaurant’s wine list.
“We thought if people really want to bring wine to Vera’s, we should let them do it. As long as they’re eating our food, we don’t mind,” says Cantor.
Only two Vera’s locations serve wine but customers can bring their own to any location because all are equipped to serve liquor.
The BYOW program is expected to boost B.C.’s economy. Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Service Association, said the change could increase restaurant attendance two per cent, adding $20 million to industry sales in B.C. annually.
“I think the majority of restaurants will do it,” he said in an interview last month. “I think it makes good sense. It is all about hospitality, welcoming guests and creating a good guest experience.”
It’s too early to tell how the program is going for Vera’s Burger Shack, Cantor says, but he doesn’t think the corkage fee will hurt his business because wine is a very small part of the menu.
“Alcohol [sales] are an add-on and a bonus for us, but it’s not the majority of our sales, so for us it wasn’t a concern.”
—With files from Jeff Nagel/Surrey North Delta Newsleader
Some North Shore restaurants participating in BYOW:
Aristos Greek Taverna - $10
Beach House - $40
Boathouse Restaurant - $20
Browns Restaurant - $15
Vera’s Burger Shack - $2
Keg Steakhouse - $25
Observatory at Grouse Mountain - $25
Raglan’s Bistro - $17
Village Taphouse - $20
Red Lion Bar and Grill - $20
Marina Grill - $15
White Spot - $10
Fishworks - $25
Rockford Grill - $20
Mangia E Bevi - $30
Boston Pizza - $10
Zen Japanese Restaurant - $20
Amici Restaurant - $20