Abbotsford and Mission diners now have the option of bringing their own bottle of wine to their favourite restaurant with a new change to provincial liquor regulations.
But while many local restaurants are adopting the new policy to better serve their customers, they are not convinced it will help the struggling industry's bottom line.
Rich Coleman, Minister of Energy and Mines, made the announcement alongside Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Service Association, last Thursday morning.
"We want to provide our restaurant industry with greater flexibility in terms of the services it can offer to its customers," said Coleman in a press release.
Restaurants choosing to participate in the BYOW plan can charge patrons a corkage fee for the service.
Licensees are still liable if patrons over imbibe or if minors are served, and the new rules don't apply to beer or other spirits.
The new regulations will help get people to come out and dine more often, said Tostenson.
"More business will result in positive economic impacts such as increased employment and downstream benefits to suppliers of the industry," he said.
However, some Abbotsford eateries don't feel the initiative will have a positive or negative impact on sales or revenue.
Alycia Braun, day manager at Earls Abbotsford, said the chain is allowing customers to bring wine for a $15 corkage fee per 750 ml bottle.
"At the end of the day, we just want customers to come in and enjoy themselves," said Braun.
"We expect it will have a neutral effect on sales."
Bringing wine to restaurants has been in play in a number of other provinces for years, so it's no great surprise it has arrived in B.C, she added.
When Alberta restaurants allowed patrons to bring wine, it was popular at first but the trend died down after the novelty wore off, Braun said.
Alicia Bodaly, co-owner and manager of Restaurant 62, well-known for its extensive wine selection, said the fine dining establishment will participate in the BYOW and charge a corkage fee of $25.
"We weren't terribly in favour of the plan when it was on the table. We have a large [wine] inventory and we spent a lot of time on it," Bodaly said.
"But it is another option for people that I hope will be great in the long term."
A couple of guests have already taken advantage of the new regulations and seem pleased with the change, she said.
Bodaly suspects the new plan will be appreciated most by individuals with an extensive wine collection or a particularly unique bottle they are saving for a special occasion.
However, it's not clear how the change will impact the restaurant's revenue.
"It's tough to say at this point. It could have a large effect because wine is a big part of our business," said Bodaly.
"But I'm hoping it will balance out with people being able to afford to come dine more often."
Kerry Martin, owner of the Blackberry Kitchen in Mission, said he expects the new policy will hurt restaurants with a high mark-up for their wines most, or establishments that specialize in menus with wine pairings.
"It won't hurt us because we have a modest mark up already," said Martin.
The restaurateur will charge a $12 corkage fee for each bottle of wine and expects the initiative to be revenue neutral.
It will be interesting to see what kind of wines people bring in, he said.
However, he doesn't expect a rush of people showing up at his door with bottles under their arms.
"I don't anticipate hordes of people will take advantage of it," he said.
However, not all local restaurants will be participating in the voluntary BYOW plan.
The Abbotsford Cactus Club Cafe, along with all the B.C. restaurants in the chain, won't be allowing patrons to bring wine.
The Cactus Club chain is reviewing the new regulations to assess what it means for business, and until the review is finished, the restaurants won't be participating in the plan, said a company spokesperson Tuesday.
- Announced local corkage fees run from $12 to $25.
- Only B.C.-bought wines allowed.
- Bringing own bottle does not apply to beer or liquor.