As Fat City reported last month, Kansas City's City Council recently -- and quietly -- repealed a long-standing ordinance that prohibited diners from bringing their own bottles of wine into restaurants. (It set off a firestorm of comments, by the way.)
Because a restaurant's staff would still be legally required to open the bottles, pour the wine and re-cork the bottles, the amended ordinance gave individual restaurants the right to set their own corkage fees. That's what a restaurant charges to pop those corks, provide wineglasses and serve the stuff. It's one way for restaurants to recoup profits lost on not selling its own vintages. The national average for corkage fees ranges from $10 to $25 a bottle.
But different regions have different rules: In San Francisco, some restaurants require a fee of $10 per bottle for restaurants with fewer than 200 different wines on their lists and as much as $30 per bottle for a wine list with more than 500 vintages.
Now that the BYOB law has been relaxed in Kansas City, what are local restaurants charging to open your bottle of wine? Here are a few examples from dining rooms around the metro:
- Ryan Maybee at the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange is charging $20 per bottle.
- Chef Michael Smith and his wife, Nancy, operate the popular Michael Smith and Extra Virgin restaurants in the Crossroads. Nancy Smith says the two restaurants charge $30 per bottle on most nights, but Wednesday night is "Wine Night" at Michael Smith, and there is no corkage fee for customers who BYOB that evening. Monday night is no-corkage-fee "Wine Night" at Extra Virgin.
- Hamburger Mary's, according to manager Robbie McGowan, does not charge a corkage fee.
- Steve Greer, the co-owner of the historic Golden Ox in the West Bottoms, says his staff hasn't decided yet what -- if any -- fee to charge for opening wine brought into the restaurant by customers.
- Frank Sebree of the Majestic Restaurant said he struggled with a decision to charge a corkage fee: "We really want to encourage our patrons to order from our wine list," Sebree says, "but I understand that we have customers who may want to bring in a special bottle for an anniversary or special event." Sebree charges $25 per bottle for BYOB patrons.
- Jason Conner, the manager of Lidia's Kansas City, says he's happy about the new BYOB ordinance: "The members of local wine clubs were booking their dinners at Kansas restaurants. Since the law changed, I've already booked one club dinner here." For most patrons bringing in their own bottle, Lidia's charges a corkage fee of $20 per bottle.
- No one has brought in a bottle of their own wine to Aaron Confessori's Westport Cafe & Bar since the law changed, but Confessori has already established $20 per bottle as a corkage fee: "It equates to the cost of the least expensive bottle of wine in our own list."
- Mano and Barbara Rafael of Le Fou Frog have set $25 per bottle as a corkage fee for their festive French bistro. "And it can't be a wine that's already on our wine list," Barbara Rafael says.
- John Williams at the PotPie restaurant in Westport doesn't have a lot of his regulars bringing in their own bottles. "But if they do, I charge about $15 per bottle," Williams says.
- The least expensive corkage fee in the city may be the Bo Lings restaurant on the Country Club Plaza: Owner Richard Ng says he charges $2 per person to serve a customer's wine.
And don't even think
of bringing your wine bottle to the celebrated Justus Drugstore
restaurant in Smithville, Missouri. It's still against the law to BYOB in the northern hamlet, according to police chief Ken Wilson. "Can you bring your own bottle into a restaurant here?" Wilson says. "No."