Is it chutzpah and do I have the chutzpah to try it? Very recently the law regarding bringing wine in to a restaurant has been changed here in Michigan. It is now legal to do so. My question is, is it ethical to bring a bottle of wine into a restaurant? Is it morally right to do so as well? The newspapers have been very quiet on this subject, other then than the mere reporting of the change in the law. I question the ability of newspaper journalists to bring any sound reporting anymore, as I find that I have to read some articles a couple of times, because of the built in bias of the so called writer.
I have been to a few restaurants where the owners have graciously allowed friends of ours to bring in a special bottle of wine for a celebration. I might also add that the bottle of wine is each time was a bottle that even the finest of restaurants would be hard pressed to have in their cellar and if they did, the storage and investment of the wine would be astronomical and the restaurants did it as a favor to a good customer on the q.t. as we used to say. For the last decade or say, there have been grumblings that restaurants were scalping diners on the price of a bottle of wine. It seems that the markup could be three to four times the retail price of the bottle of wine, but in all fairness, this was usually noticed on popular priced and popular wines. I have noticed many times in a restaurant that fine wines are not nearly as steep in price as the popular price wines are. It seems to me that fifty dollars is usually the point of diminishing returns for a restaurant on a bottle of wine. Where a ten dollar bottle of wine in a store can return forty dollars and thirty dollar bottle does not bring a hundred and twenty dollars.
There does not seem to be a consensus yet among the restraunteurs about what to do with this new ruling. How much should a reasonable corkage fee be? Will the fee be waived if another bottle of wine from the carte is purchased? Should they allow a bottle to be brought in, that they already have on their carte? What if the wine that is brought in, is an embarrassment to the establishment? I think that these are reasonable questions for both sides of the table.
As a retailer, I understand about the hidden costs of doing business. I mean some restaurants have the finest and pristine crystal wine glasses, especially for their reserve wines. That has to be done by hand. Then there is the service performed either by the wait person or the sommelier in the opening and the decanting of the wine. I wonder what a restaurant would have paid to secure a Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1964 in today’s market at an auction. How does one figure in the tip for a bottle of wine that one brought with them? I think we have all looked at a wine carte and thought my price was better. I would be interested to hear from anyone that lives where this has been an allowable practice for some time, and what they have encountered. At the moment I think that I shall refrain until I feel more comfortable with the concept. Perhaps it may cause the markup to be reduced, we shall see.