Opinion Column

Corkage fee move worthy of a toast

BILL TIELEMAN
Columnist Bill Tieleman applauds the B.C. government's move to allow patrons to bring their own wine to restaurants. (FILE PHOTO)

Columnist Bill Tieleman applauds the B.C. government's move to allow patrons to bring their own wine to restaurants. (FILE PHOTO)

God made only water, but man made wine.

- Victor Hugo, 1802-1885

Cheers to the BC Liberal government!

Shocked? It's not a sentiment seen often in this space, but credit should be given when any party does the right thing.

And on new wine corkage rules in B.C. restaurants, the government has - gulp - done a good job.

The concept is simple: restaurants with a liquor licence can let customers bring their own bottle to accompany a meal and be charged a corkage fee rather than buying wine from the establishment.

The "bring your own wine" fee is up to the restaurant - from nothing to perhaps as high as $50 a bottle - and there is no government bureaucracy involved.

Most restaurants will charge a $10 to $25 corkage fee, to discourage customers from packing in the cheapest Somewhat Blanc or Recent Rouge wines. They may also ask patrons not to bring bottles already on the restaurant's wine list.

Corkage could increase restaurant sales while reducing the cost of wine to consumers and allowing them to enjoy a better quality quaff.

This is a common-sense change that will result in more people going to restaurants," Ian Tostenson, B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association president, said Saturday in an interview.

But government can't guarantee corkage's success - restaurants must make it work and consumers need to patronize those who offer it.

Unfortunately, one downside is that many B.C. restaurants are already too greedy with existing wine pricing markups and may do that with corkage.

I recently declined to buy a bottle of French pinot noir retailing for $23 in government liquor stores that was offered for $63 - almost triple markup and a $40 profit!

This whole movement to modernize liquor laws is a consumer rebellion over the high cost of alcoholic beverages in B.C.," said Mike Klassen, who runs the BC Wine Lover blog.

Drinking wine in moderation over a family dinner is one of life's great pleasures, yet it's prohibitively expensive for us. Fairly priced corkage fees are a step toward affordability," he reasoned.

Sadly, corkage fees are subject to the hated Harmonized Sales Tax - until it disappears in April 2013.

Nonetheless, let's raise a glass - the BC Liberal government has earned a toast at last.


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