Customers can take own wine to restaurants for a fee

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, June 29, 2011

FRANKLIN—Area restaurant owners don’t have a problem with a new law that allows customers to bring in their own wine for a fee.

David Rabil, owner of Fred’s restaurant, said he doesn’t sell much wine, so allowing customers to bring it in starting on Friday, July 1, is OK.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” Rabil said. “I think it will bring in some more business.”

Virginia restaurants previously could not allow customers to bring in wine and charge a corking fee unless the establishment had a private room. This was hurting the state’s restaurants as customers could go to bordering Washington, D.C., or North Carolina, which both have corkage fee laws, said Sen. Jeff McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, who introduced the bill.

“The idea is to get more people into restaurants,” McWaters said. “The idea is to be fair about it.”

The restaurant owner will determine the corkage fee.

Rabil said he would research fees to determine what he will charge.

McWaters pointed out that allowing corkage fees for restaurants with private rooms instead of all restaurants gave those restaurants an unfair advantage.

“Some restaurants could do it and others couldn’t,” he said. “It was confusing for restaurants, and it was confusing to customers.”

Twenty-six states have corkage fee laws.

The law does not force restaurants to impose a corkage fee, or to allow customers to bring in their own wine, McWaters said.

“It’s all voluntary,” he said. “We want to let the businesses decide what best meets the needs of its clientele. We wanted to give them the maximum flexibility to let the owners do what is right for their business.”

Frank Padilla, owner of Don Pancho’s on Armory Drive, doesn’t think the new law will affect his business.

“I don’t think I would be against it,” Padilla said.