New Wine Laws Legalize Existing Behavior in Maryland, Virginia


Corkage is coming to Virginia and direct shipping is set to debut in Maryland, writes Dave McIntyre at the Washington Post's All We Can Eat blog. As McIntyre notes, like many reforms, the new laws merely make legal the things people are already doing.

Wine lovers in Virginia and Maryland can come out of the shadows this Friday when it becomes legal to do the things we've been doing all along. Virginia's corkage law takes effect on July 1, making it legal for restaurants to allow patrons to bring their own wine.

If you were unaware that Virginia banned BYOB at licensed restaurants, you may be forgiven. The law had never really been enforced…


Across the Potomac, Maryland diners are still not allowed to take their own wine to restaurants; the Maryland legislature blocked an effort to allow that this year. But lawmakers did approve direct shipping, which means we can have bottles shipped from out-of-state wineries straight to our homes. Starting Friday, when the law takes effect, we will no longer need to make furtive trips across the border to retrieve a coveted case delivered to a friend's house (and paying the exorbitant one-bottle "buddy tax"). No more "personal deliveries" to our offices in the District, either. And no more UPS shipments from Napa County prominently marked, "OLIVE OIL".

Whole thing here.

As far as corkage goes, what (besides the right to make the choice) is in it for restaurants? Top Chef alum and Maryland restaurateur Bryan Voltaggio, a big supporter of the failed corkage reform in his state, explains that "it offers a better experience for patrons, and increases traffic to local restaurants."

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  1. There’s a couple that frequent a local diner that I frequent too. They bring their own coffee. If I’d owned the place, I’d charge them for it, and quite a bit too, because it’s the serious gourmet shit.

  2. Baylen Linnekin? A. Barton Hinkle? Is there an old-timey libertarian name generator I should be aware of?

    1. Radley Balko? Ayn Rand? Lysander Spooner?

      There’s some sort of pattern, but I can’t put my finger on it.

  3. I’ve seen corkage work in Europe. The restaraunt charges a fee for the glasses and to serve the wine.

  4. Regarding cross-state shipping of wine: Does anyone else find it amusing that this is the one area where Congress is not using the Commerce Clause as intended? The beer and wine distributors are essentially enacting trade barriers within the US to create their own little fiefdoms.

    1. Amendment 21

      Section 2.
      The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

  5. As a homebrewer, I’m a big fan of BYOB because I can meet up with other homebrewing buddies for dinner and sample our latest creations at the same time. Ironically, pretty much all the BYOB’s in Chicago are the result of neo-prohibition: they tend to exist only in dry pockets of the city where you can’t get a liquor license.

  6. (Some) restaurants live on the margin from alcohol sales…

    I’m not sold on BYOB, but I’d love to be convinced otherwise.

    1. Not sold how? It enhances the dining experience by opening up the menu (one is more apt to choose the expensive dishes when he’s not spending $8.50 for each glass of wine) and allowing you to focus more on the meal and table conversation since you’re not constantly awaiting the waiter and deciding what to drink next. I really prefer it to the liquor licensed restaurant / bar combo, unless said combo is also a microbrewery.

      Legalizing BYOB doesn’t force any restaurants adopt it and the ones that already have a bar or liquor license likely wouldn’t. But it does give the restaurants that weren’t able to procure a license the chance to compete in the market of people that enjoy adult beverages while eating.

    2. There’s an etiquette to it, like don’t bring a wine that the restaurant sells, don’t be a jerk if they’ve recently changed policy or upped the corkage fee, buy a round of cocktails or a bottle from the menu to compensate, and offer a glass of what you brought to the sommelier/waiter/manager.

      As for why to do it, some restaurants have terrible wine lists. Sometimes you want a nice anniversary dinner with a wine from the year you got married, and don’t feel like cooking at home. Sometimes it’s an industry thing where a winemaker is doing a publicity tour and entertaining writers and retailers at a restaurant. It could even be a religious/ethical thing, like bringing your own kosher or vegan or organic or locally made wine.

      Restaurants are free to say no, so it’s always best to call ahead and talk to the bartender or manager. If you’re not a jerk about it, many places are happy to accommodate as long as it’s legal in your state.

      1. As for why to do it, some restaurants have terrible wine lists.

        Most “Italian” restaurants you go to charge eight bucks for a glass of Kendall Jackson or Beringer.
        If you want to swoon a date or just get some descent wines for a descent price, you’ll need to have some good stuff shipped from a winery.

        Luckily, I found a little cafe in my area that happens to be BYOB without any additional charge. I’m sure the owners enjoy the large parties of this policy attracts as a result.

        1. *large parties this policy attracts*

  7. As a subject of the Free State, I’ve been getting heavy boxes of olive oil and walking in to restaurants with large tote bags for quite some time.

    A little tidbit: The UPS guy doesn’t give a shit what’s in the box, and the waiter doesn’t care what’s in the bag as long as you tip.

    I don’t need permission from the state to get/drink wine.

    Just sayin’.

    1. A little tidbit: The UPS guy doesn’t give a shit what’s in the box

      Things has changed quite a bit recently, then. Good. I remember back in the late 90s that UPS used to be extremely militant about checking packages for wine, not letting you ship already sealed packages, etc.

      Re: corkage, it should be up to the restaurant, always. I tried to make sure I wasn’t bringing in anything they weren’t already selling. And tipping extra was always appreciated. If they don’t feel like letting you bring in your own wine, you can always go somewhere else. And maybe then they’ll stop with the 300-500% markup on bottles. Corkage is one of the few things I miss about California; not many places in Texas allow it.

  8. What’s in it for the restaurant? 100% Pure profit in the corkage fee, typically between $10 and $50/bottle, depending on the class of the restaurant. Also, people may come and buy your food rather than stay at home in order to drink the wine they want to drink.

  9. In Philadelphia, the unintended benefit of liquor laws came form the backlash against Prohibition repeal, is a thirving BYOB scene. Liquor licenses are hard to come by, but people are free to bring their own. Restaurants cater to this. Some provide the corkscrews free at each table. Others give directions to the wine shop.

    Result: you spend your money on food, and save on the booze when you plan ahead. It’s pretty win-win.

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