Cheers! Or hold the toast?
Aficionados who appreciate wine but haven’t found the vintages of their choice on the wine list can start now bring their own bottles to some participating restaurants.
A new Michigan law effective Friday allows customers to bring their own bottles of wine to participating restaurants that licensed to sell and serve liquor, the Detroit News reports.
Restaurants aren’t required to participate, and they’re able to charge corkage fee to cover the costs of the server and providing wine glasses.
The voluntary aspect of what’s being called the “BYOB of wine laws” is a key to making it work, said Rep. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, who shepherded the law through Michigan's Legislature after he visited Chicago and saw how a similar law was invigorating the restaurant scene there.
“We made it permissible to bring in wine, but it’s not a requirement that a restaurant allow it,” Stamas, who also owns a pizzeria, told the newspaper.
Experts say the law could enliven Michigan’s restaurant scene.
The voluntary nature of the law that gives restaurateurs the freedom to opt out of participation also applies to customers who may choose to go somewhere else if they can't bring in their own wine, said Sally Jefferson, regional government affairs manager at the California wine industry’s advocacy group, the Wine Institute.
“Customers appreciate having the option and the freedom to bring their favorite wines,” said Jefferson, who worked with Stamas to draft the bill.
Michigan restaurateurs appear to be cautiously weighing their options. Some fear it will hurt their bottom line because they’ll lose out on the mark-up usually charged on a bottle of wine, said Scott Ellis, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association.
Participating restaurants can charge corkage fees to cover their costs, making the new law more palatable.
The sommelier at a tony Birmingham restaurant with a strong focus on wine said the ink wasn’t dry on Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature on the bill in December 2013 before customers began asking when they could bring in their favorite wines.
Joseph Salerno, also the general manager of the Forest Grill restaurant in Birmingham, said he and Chef de Nick Janutol, researched how the law might affect their business, which is known for its extensive wine cellar.
They decided to participate, but with some caveats – including that the wine customers bring in must be bottles they're not stocking.
“We have had someone bring in something very special and he did the courtesy of letting us have a taste of it to educate us and possibly see if it was something we should add to our menu,” Salerno told the newspaper.
The Hill Seafood & Chop House in Grosse Pointe Farms has yet to set a policy, but general manager Gretchen Meeuws said rules will probably allow customers to bring in a special bottle of wine only if it’s something the restaurant can’t provide.
Restaurateurs said they need to educate their customers that the purpose of the new law isn’t to lower customers’ bills.“It’s about honoring a special occasion with a special bottle, not a ‘two-buck Chuck’ or something you can’t find on my wine list,” Nancy Gogo, manager of The Brewery Restaurant in Clinton Township, told The Detroit News.