Yes, when compared to our Philadelphia neighbors (a city with more than 250 Bring Your Own Booze restaurants), DC's BYOB scene is less than impressive. BYOB a rare phenomenon in the capital, and the restaurants which offer corkage also tend to charge fees. And like many things in D.C., those fees can be expensive, running around $25 per bottle and leaving many would-be brown baggers destined to order off the wine list.
However, while Philadelphia's BYOB policies may seem progressive, they're actually a response to the state's strict liquor laws. Pennsylvania mandates "only one liquor license for each three thousand inhabitants of the county." In other words, there are more restaurants than available liquor licenses. Many more. Complicating matters are high application fees (anywhere from $700-4000) and state-controlled wine distribution, which can mean minimal profits for restaurant owners unless they resort to high markups and risk patron dissatisfaction. Luckily for imbibers, there is a loophole — a liquor license is not necessary to offer BYOB in Philadelphia.
Here in DC, acquiring a liquor license isn't nearly as difficult. "DC does not have a strong market for BYOB because they don't need to," said Jon Arroyo, Chief Mixologist and Beverage Director for Farmers Restaurant Group. "The laws make it easier for restaurants to bring in larger varieties of wines for great prices, which we in turn can pass on to our guests." And according to Jessie Cornelius, Public Affairs Specialist from the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), you do need an ABRA license to offer BYOB, which explains a lot about the city's BYOB culture (or lack thereof).
So why would any DC restaurant with a liquor license, or more imporhttp://mt.curbednetwork.com/mt-static/images/formatting-icons/bold.giftantly, with liquor sales, offer BYOB? Arroyo says "as a courtesy and a sign of hospitality." Many wine-centric eateries find BYOB quite popular with collectors. Ripple's General Manager and Wine Curator, , notes "these patrons bring older vintages of wine to enjoy with good food and not necessarily drink it at home." For Ripple, a recent recipient of Wine Enthusiast's "100 Best Wine Restaurants in America" award, extending the BYOB courtesy to fellow wine connoisseurs just makes sense.
But fear not, Yellow Tail drinkers. DC's small but existent BYOB scene isn't reserved for wine snobs only. There's room for everyone, provided customers pick the right night of the week. Here's a roundup of some free corkage options around town.
Café Du Parc
Free corkage on Mondays, $35 per bottle the rest of the week.
· All Coverage of Cafe Du Parc [-EDC-]
This Penn Quarter spot offers free corkage on Monday nights as long as customers don't bring a bottle on their list.
· All Coverage of Cedar [-EDC-]
Charlie Palmer Steakhouse
One of the rare places to offer free corkage every night. There's a two bottle limit and the bottles must be domestic. Additional bottles are $25. Friday extend free corkage to 6 bottles, international or domestic.
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Daily Grill DC
One of the perks of being a regular here is the free corkage Tuesdays for preferred customers.
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Free corkage Monday-Wednesday.
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The always-packed downtown spot gives free corkage on the first two bottles, $25 after that.
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Le Chat Noir
Pair your favorite French bottle with Le Chat Noir's menu, but to avoid the fees, be sure to go Sundays from 4 p.m.-close.
· Le Chat Noir [Official Site]
At this traditional Korean restaurant, the first bottle is free, and it's $25 for every additional.
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This award-winning wine bar boasts free corkage Sunday through Monday with one stipulation: purchase wine from their friends at Weygandt Wines down the street.
· All Ripple Coverage [-EDC-]
Perhaps the most well known BYOB spot in the city, customers need to make reservations in advance to enjoy the perk of BYOB.
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Like Ripple, this little Italian spot provides free corkage if customers purchase and produce a receipt from their favorite local wine retailer, Schneider's.
· Toscana Cafe [Official Site]
[Photo: Charlie Palmer]