Corkage Debate Prompts Baltimore Sun Columnist to Pop Off in Support
By Paul Vigna
Monday, January 24, 2011, 9:59 PM
Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws earlier today e-mail a story published today by Baltimore Sun restaurant critic Richard Gorelick. Here are the first couple of paragraphs:
In Maryland, you may bring your own bottle of wine into an unlicensed (BYOB) establishment. You've likely done so.
State law prohibits you, however, from bringing your own bottle of wine into a restaurant with a liquor license. Proposed legislation in Maryland would permit this practice, known as "corkage," and individual restaurants would be allowed to set their own corkage policies.
You might not be aware of the corkage prohibition because: 1) it never occurred to you to bring your own wine into a restaurant that serves wine, or 2) you or someone you know has, in fact, done it; many restaurants either occasionally or routinely flout the prohibition for regular customers. It's a request typically made, not by the average consumer, but by a wine enthusiast who wishes to bring in a special bottle from a personal collection or by so-called "cellar groups" or wine aficionado clubs, in other words, the kind of desirable customer that some restaurant owners love to accommodate.
Here's a link to the entire column, which includes a list of responses tagged on to the end of the piece that are just as interesting to read.
That prompted me to check with the Pennsylvania Winery Association to find out how the law reads in this state. Thanks to communications director Elisabeth Novak, who dug up this interpretation by the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, here's the answer.
OPINION: There is nothing in the Liquor Code or the Board’s Regulations that prohibits an individual from bringing his or her own alcohol into any establishment, whether or not the establishment possesses a license issued by the Board. An establishment is, therefore, free to allow or disallow patrons from bringing their own alcohol onto its premises. The alcohol dispensed, however, must be legally procured in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Section 491 of the Liquor Code makes it unlawful for any person to possess any wine or liquor within Pennsylvania that has not been purchased through a Pennsylvania wine and spirits store or a licensed limited winery. [47 P.S. § 4-491(2)]. Further, the establishment may, but need not, charge a corkage fee to handle any product brought onto the premises by its patrons. Please be advised that restaurant licensees are not permitted to furnish, serve or allow people to consume any alcoholic beverages during hours they may not legally sell alcoholic beverages. Commonwealth v. Mignogna, 120 Pa. Cmwlth. 405, 548 A.2d 689 (1988). [47 P.S. § 4-493(16)]. Please further note that a licensee will still be held strictly liable for any violations of the Liquor Code or the Board’s Regulations (including providing alcohol to minors or persons who are visibly intoxicated) that occur on its premises, regardless of whether they involve alcohol provided by the licensee or brought onto the premises by a customer.