Bars Get Ready To Welcome ‘BYO Wine’ Business Under New Law

Posted at 8:59 PM, Mar 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-17 05:13:11-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (March 16, 2014) — A new state law allows customers to bring their own wine to businesses such as restaurants and other places with liquor licenses.

However, there is a catch.

Businesses are not required to take part in the new law. If they do, they can charge a “cork fee.”

The law was signed by Gov. Snyder on Friday and is already getting a lot of buzz.

FOX 17 spoke to the owner of Barfly Ventures, Mark Sellers, who owns several bars in Grand Rapids, such as HopCat and Grand Rapids Brewery. Sellers said that he’s excited for the change because it will allow more options for customers.

“I think this is a great thing for Michigan and Grand Rapids,” he said. “I used to live in Chicago. I lived there for years and in Chicago this was a really common thing as it is in a lot of bigger cities.”

Customers at Grand Rapids Brewery also said that they’ve experienced the benefits of a bring your-own-wine policy.

“I’ve visited New York City a couple years ago and they had the wine policy, bring your own wine,” said Matthew Peterson. “That was fun. Friends and I went and we bought a jug and got brunch.”

Sellers said that HopCat, Grand Rapids Brewery, Stella’s, and McFadden’s will charge a $12 corkage fee.

“It takes up table space,” Sellers said. “They aren’t spending any actual money at the bar, except for the cork. We have to wash the glasses, so there is some work involved.”

Even with the corkage fee, Matthew Peterson said that he will still save money bringing his own wine to the establishments. “It’s cheaper. I guess you don’t have to pay the inflated price of wine. I mean, you can go over to Martha’s Vineyard and buy a $12 bottle of wine, but you come here and you are paying anywhere from four to seven or eight dollars a glass.”

Sellers said that ultimately the new law allows for businesses like his to provide more options for wine lovers.

“What’s good about it is that people can come to any bar they want to now, and have exactly what they want to drink. If they don’t like what you have on tap, or they don’t like your wine selection, they can bring their own.”

Customers will be able to take their unfinished bottles home, as long as they’re capped.

It’s important to note that businesses are not required to allow customers to bring their own wine, and corkage fees can vary. For example, Olive Garden and Red Lobster in Kalamazoo are charging $7, while Bravo Restaurant and Cafe in Portage is charging $25.

Also, several places in Muskegon aren’t allowing it at all, so you’ll want to make sure you call ahead of time.

Under the new law, hotels and resorts are not part of the bring your own wine policy.