Soon you may BYOB to Michigan restaurants

By BECKY McKENDRY

Capital News Service

LANSING – It’s date night. Don’t forget the cologne, your nicest earrings – and your favorite bottle of pinot grigio?

Yes, it may soon be okay to “BYOB” (bring your own bottle) to your favorite restaurants.

A bill introduced by Rep. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, would allow customers to bring their own bottles of wine to any establishment licensed to serve alcohol and willing to allow it.

“I had visited Illinois and a few other places out of state that had these laws, and I thought it was a neat idea,” Stamas said.

“Bring your own bottle” restaurants have been around for years in places like New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Some even advertise specials with free or discounted uncorking fees – the minimum fee required for waitstaff to open and serve the bottle.

The proposed minimum uncorking fee under Stamas’ bill is $25.

Although the legislation is in the early stages, the outlook for passage appears generally favorable, one industry official said.

“We haven’t contacted all of our members but on a cursory review, it looks good,” said Justin Winslow, a vice president of the Michigan Restaurant Association.

Winslow said the proposed regulations make it a nice option for restaurants.

“No one can bring in homemade wine or a half-opened bottle of wine,” Winslow said. “And at the end of the day, it’s an option. Restaurants could choose to let people bring in wines they just don’t have on their menu, they could allow all and they could allow none. It’s their choice.”

The law could even encourage the sales of Michigan wines, according to Michael Lashbrook, president of the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association.

“A few years ago, it was difficult to find Michigan wines on the wine lists at a lot of restaurants,” Lashbrook said. “It’s getting better, but this could allow people to bring in more local wine.”

Michigan has more than 100 wineries, from Thunder Bay Winery in Alpena to Douglas Valley in Manistee.

Stamas said, “There are some awesome Michigan wines out there and I think a lot of people would make a conscious effort to drink Michigan wines.”

And ultimately, it may even lead to some savings for restaurant-goers.

“It’s very hard to say what the average markup is on a bottle of wine at a restaurant because it varies, but it’s significant,” Lashbrook said. “It can often be 100 percent or more. Between a $25 uncorking fee or a markup, I’d say the markup is going to be more most of the time.”

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