British Columbia has caught up to other provinces in Canada and is now allowing diners to bring their own bottle of wine into participating restaurants to drink with their meal.
"People can bring in whatever bottle of wine they like but it must be commercially produced, meaning no home brews," explained Michael Brisbois, Chairman for the Board of the Restaurant Association of Whistler. "The wine must be immediately handed over to your server and then guests should be prepared to pay a corkage fee. I don't know what the exact corkage fees will be, they will differ with every establishment and we won't be placing a cap on them."
While many restaurants in Whistler are still debating if they will participate in the Bring Your Own Wine Program, there are some establishments who have made quick decisions and already have their corkage fees in place. The Wild Wood Restaurant is charging a $10 corkage fee, the Keg Steakhouse and Bar is charging $14.95, Elements Urban Tapas Parlour is $20, Araxi is $38 and the Bearfoot Bistro is leading the pack with a $65 corkage fee.
Founder of the Bearfoot Bistro, Andre Saint Jacques explains the high price is to encourage guests to bring in a nice bottle of wine.
"If guests bring in their favorite, rare bottle of wine then we are certainly encouraging them to do so. However, we also want patrons to continue experiencing the Bearfoot's large selection of wines that we spend so much time researching and educating our staff about," said Saint Jacques.
The debate is out as to how the new ruling with affect business levels. Brisbois admits it's too early to evaluate what kind of impact there will be so he is treating this year as a trial period to watch wine sales and business numbers closely. Some restaurants around Whistler are sceptical about the new program.
"I'm glad to see that B.C. liquor laws are finally easing up a bit but to be honest I don't see a lot of benefit that this program will bring to my restaurant," said Gerry Graham, bar manager at Caramba Restaurante. "We work really hard to build up a wide selection of wines and if guests are bringing in a cheap bottle of wine just to save money then we will lose out in the end and possibly have to cut back our wine inventory."
However, others disagree.
"I have been the general manager with Wild Wood Restaurant for eight years and general manager of Elements Urban Tapas Parlor for two years," said Brian Dixon. "I can count on one hand how many times guests have asked to bring in their own bottles of wine. I really don't think this new program will have much of an effect on our wine sales so I welcome it."