Corkage Fees Update

After speaking with City of Las Vegas Attorneys, City of Las Vegas Business Licensing Enforcement personnel, Clark County Attorneys, and numerous individuals at both the wholesale and retail level of wine purveyance, Eating Las Vegas has come to these ten conclusions about corkage fees for persons wishing to bring their own wine to restaurants:

1) The City of Las Vegas considers it illegal and will cite any establishment (for a violation of their liquor/wine license) that allows persons to consume a bottle of wine on a restaurant premise not purchased at that place of business. However, the enforcement of this prohibition has been spotty and selective at best.

2) Restaurants in the City of Las Vegas, i.e., any place located north of Sahara Avenue, are not unhappy about this ruling.

3) Consumers have almost no clout in this fight because the number and fortitude of those protesting such restrictions is small and not exactly a sympathetic bunch.

4) Restaurants in the City of Las Vegas can feign sympathy for their customer’s plight, but are quietly smiling for not having to put up with corkage abuse (e.g., people who buy a $10 bottle at Albertson’s to drink with their dinner).

5) Clark County (i.e. The Strip and all locations south of Sahara Boulevard), couldn’t care less, and has no corkage/anti-corkage policy on its books or in its gun sights.

6) If you want to feel free to bring your own, special bottle of wine into a restaurant, either: a) do it in a place where you are a regular customer (where they will discreetly allow it), or b) do it south of Sahara Boulevard.

7) Along those same lines, if the bottle is old enough, rare enough, expensive enough or special enough, most good restaurants will allow you to consume it on the premises. However, Eating Las Vegas has no idea how the Cheesecake Factory or a place like this, deals with the issue.

8) The issue is not one of charging corkage for the consumption of the bottle, but rather, whether it is lawful to allow consumption of alcoholic beverages on licensed premises that were not purchased from those licensed premises. On this the City and the County have no uniform policy.

9) This is hardly the last word on the subject, but after scratching around for more than 6 months to get to the bottom of these inconsistent enforcement positions, it’s the best we can do. Anyone who has or knows of any information to the contrary should feel free to contact us.

10) People get the government they deserve. – Votaire.

19 thoughts on “Corkage Fees Update

  1. What’s with Raku then? They refuse to allow corkage claiming it is illegal, which makes me reluctant to got here. Someone needs to straighten them out.

  2. it is illegal, violates liquor licence laws, most places just dont care and there isnt that much enforcement. but you cant blame an establishment from protecting themselves and not allowing it. people want it changed then write your legislators and start picketing!!! personally, if you want to drink a bottle of your own wine, then drink it at HOME

  3. We had a special event at Charlie Palmers with special wine, they charged me $45 for corkage. I will never go back. If restaurants didn’t mark-up wines so much, perhaps they could sell more.

  4. And then there are places like Marche Bacchus who offer wines for practically retail rather than the rapacious prices charged by most restaurants. If the restaurants’ prices were reasonable, this wouldn’t even be an issue. But charging $35 for a $12 (retail) bottle of wine that requires no special provenance sticks in my craw, and how restaurants can justify it completely baffles me.

  5. The amount of ignorance that is displayed by people getting huffy over wine prices is staggering. Do you really think that the steak cost $50-60? Or that martini you sip costs $13? When you meet with a lawyer do you really think his “time” is worth $500/hour? How about that car you’re driving, did it cost what the sticker price was? You are paying for the experience, service, knowledge, and ambiance, which includes a list of taxes, insurances, licenses etc. That being said, some restaurant companies keep there wine costs at a crazy percentage that is the root of those extremely high wine prices. Those places keep a percentage instead of looking at the amount of money they are making. Last time I checked you don’t take percentage to the bank.

    As far as the corkage fees are concerned they do exist to discourage people from bring in wine. If you brought in your own steak for the restaurant to cook would you expect to be charged for it? Does that sound absurd? Well it’s the same as bringing in your own wine. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. The only exception is if you have a long standing relationship with the restaurant. And even then you should ask to bring it in and offer the Sommelier a taste as a courtesy.

  6. WELL SAID andy, when these ignorant put millions of dollars into opening a rest. then they will know why corkage fees are a must or not allowing it !

  7. “If you brought in your own steak for the restaurant to cook would you expect to be charged for it? Does that sound absurd? Well it’s the same as bringing in your own wine. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE.”

    Andy, do you collect steaks, do you have a steak cellar, do you have a special steak that you that you have saved for a celebratory occasion. do you have a steak that the restaurant can’t get or doesn’t offer. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE.

    Illegal or Legal it doesn’t matter. I respect a restaurants right to refuse bringing your on wine. If they do allow you to bring your own wine you should be respectful call ahead and ask the charge (if it seems too much, don’t bring your own wine. $45 is too much). Don’t bring a wine they have on the list. Offer a taste to your waiter or Somm or Chef (it’s a taste not a whole glass). If you are a group and are drinking more than one or two bottles order at least one off their list. And above all be nice, smile, say Thank you.

    It’s not always about the price of the wine. Its about drinking that special bottle of that special occasion.

  8. My local Albertsons has signage to promote wine with words to the effect of “most restauarants allow you to bring your own bottle”. Looks like a national promotion rather than a specific brand of wine . . . you think they’d check on the local regulations before putting that up. All due respect, probably what you’d buy in Albertsons wouldn’t rise to the specifics reflects above. May I bring my 6 dollar of St. Michael Riesling to enjoy with my lobster?

  9. Corkage should not be more than the price of two glasses of whatever the least expensive wine-by-the-glass is. Anything above that is punishment. What restaurateurs don’t seem to realize is that wine-collectors are usually as passionate about restaurants as they are about their wine collections and punishing them just drives them away.
    I eat out every night of the week; if I couldn’t open a bottle from my cellar at a restaurant, I’d never get to drink my wine.

  10. a lot of places have a policy of 18% of the price they would charge for that particular bottle.

  11. Bob, I do agree with you in your instance. However, the bulk of people bringing in wine are not like you. In fact, we always recognize when someone brings in a special bottle, certainly if it’s not on our list, and we definitely want a taste if it’s something we haven’t experienced. That gesture of offering a taste most times will get the Sommelier to “forget” about the corkage fee. And if you are a regular we definitely aren’t charging you the corkage.

    By the way…. you should see my steak cellar!!

  12. These corkage comments are pretty similar to the same ones that take place on the wine forums scattered around the Net. There are a lot of differing circumstances. No single rule covers everything.
    I get frustrated seeing the owner of a restaurant walking around the store, purchasing $50 bottles of wine and immediately charging $200 each when they hit the restaurant. He does it each week. He has no long term capital tied up. He’s supplying no value except transport in the trunk of a car. The wines are nothing special, and often not even well thought out. This is what we see at far too many fine dining restaurants around the country. Plus, many of these wines are meant to have some age on them to taste good. No wonder people get frustrated. It’s not like creating cuisine out of raw ingredients.
    Now, for restaurants that build collections of aged and interesting wines, there is a reason for marking up wine quite a bit. Although Europe constantly shows me that the level of markups for even these wines is higher than it needs to be.
    For someone like me with a walk in cellar and bringing bottles when they are ready to a restaurant that only has young recently purchased standard brand wines, it’s a whole different story. And, more often than not, there is no corkage because I do go to a small set of restaurants regularly, and I always share. I also tip half of any normal corkage charge as an additional amount over the normal 20% minimum.
    However, seeing bottles of Sutter Home and Fetzer show up at fine dining restaurants by rubes who don’t get it is equally frustrating. I also realize that a restaurant is supplying stems and a service. There is breakage on stems, so some level of corkage also makes sense.

  13. Corkage, in Calf. is $10., and oft times is waived with a share. Here, in Vegas, the wines are trippled or more in most. The other problem is that most of the better bottles are current vintages, and not ready. The wine shops in this town are equally as bad, ohh here comes one from Bob.

  14. Asides the entertainment by the phrase “female retail porn” from the DH article, my vote’s with Bob on distinguishing wine from steaks, and against overeaching retail surcharges: AKA – “corking fees”…. The wine is the product, the somm. is the server, let us never forget this overiding, predominating factor here at play in the transaction …please.

    As some celebrity once said: “(in America), people live to work, here (in Europe), people work to live.” Getting back to the corking issue, stop with the regulation already; unless it’s more liberal in permitting private parties (i.e. customers and restauraunts) from establishing their “native” understandings….

    Gov., you got my taxes, don’t be the two-ton gorilla in my wine glass too, I can see the big brother elephant in the room already – THANKS!

  15. Besides the regulatory issues between North of Sahara vs. south of Sahara, the strip etc., the cost of obtaining a permit and the time to recieve the permit is also extremely different. I have been told that there is no such thing as “BYOB” in Las Vegas and that it will take up to a year to recieve a beer/wine permit with the application fee of $2000. Even then I am not guaranteed that I will recieve a permit. I have been told that if I was across the street on the south side of Sahara that the permit fee would be $200 and I could recieve it in 3 months.

  16. We went to Sinatra at Encore with two bottles of wine. The corkage fee was $50 each. While we thought the corkage fee was a bit high, it was the staff’s attitude towards us that we didn’t appreciate. We were told a few times what the corkage fee was, as if we didn’t hear them the first time. I’m so tired of snotty attitudes by these fine dining places.

  17. As a past Executive Chef and Restaurant Partner. I have never had a problem with patrons brining there own wine to our restaurant that was not on our wine list or a vintage we did not have. But I do side with Andy bring the proper wine and be polite and do offer the Somm a taste or as I do a glass if they do so wish and I never feel bad for paying corkage because then it would be a free for all.

    I feel I get the attitude in some Vegas Restaurants can be rude if you bring a bottle or 2 so I avoid those and do return many times to the ones that welcome me.

    Last note in Napa where there is both awesome food and wine bringing your wine is quite the NORM..


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