BYOB: Toronto restaurants drop corkage fees

BYOB: Toronto restaurants drop corkage fees

Bottle shock: corkage fees are falling all over Toronto (Photo by Quinn Dombrowski) 

Along with prix-fixe menus and pink slip parties (we’re looking at you, Globe), reduced corkage fees have become a popular recession-era tactic for restaurants trying to attract diners. Ontario jumped on the BYOB bandwagon in January 2005, it has never had the same success as similar programs in Quebec. That is, until now.

“We’ve certainly seen a rise [in BYOB customers] in the last six months,” says Vertical’s Rob Montgomery, who lowered his charge from $45 to $25 about a month ago. “Guests want to spend money on food rather than wine.” He’s not the only one noticing a change. Dropping fees—which also help the house when one bottle begets another or if there’s a cocktail craving—have been on Patrick McMurray’s mind, too. The restaurateur was considering a corkage cutback at Starfish when we called; an hour later, he lowered his decanting cost from $30 to $20. As part of his democratic makeover, Carlo Cattalo is changing Splendido’s charge from $50 to $30; and Table 17 recently added a second no-charge BYOB night by popular demand. Other restos are extending successful corkage promotions. Lee and Madeline’s got hip to the craze for an April promotion: both Susur-owned spots are extending their $1 corkage to three days a week.

Here is our cheat sheet to the corkage discounts at top restaurants:

Table 17: No corkage fee Sunday and Monday (BYOB Sunday and Monday only). 782 Queen St. E. (at Saulter St.), 416-519-1851.
Paese: No corkage fee Sunday to Friday for first bottle; regular charge $25. 3827 Bathurst St. (at Wilson), 416-631-6585.
Cava: No corkage fee Sunday, regular charge $30. 1560 Yonge St. (at Heath St. E.), 416-979-9918
Centro: No corkage fee Monday to Wednesday; regular charge $35. 2472 Yonge St. (at Castlefield Ave.), 416-483-2211.
Nota Bene: No corkage fee after 9 p.m.; regular charge $40. 180 Queen St. W. (at Simcoe St.), 416-977-6400.
Crush Wine Bar: Corkage $1 on Mondays; regular charge $25. 455 King St. W. (at Spadina), 416-977-1234.
Lee: Corkage $1 Monday to Wednesday; regular charge $30. 603 King St. W. (at Portland St.), 416-504-7867.
Madeline’s: Corkage $1 Monday to Wednesday; regular charge $30. 601 King St. W. (at Portland St.), 416-603-2205.
Starfish: Corkage $20. 100 Adelaide St. E. (at Jarvis St.), 416-366-7827.
• Gamelle: Corkage $25. 468 College St. (at Markham St.), 416-923-6254.
Vertical: Corkage $25. 100 King St. W. (at Bay), First Canadian Place, 416-214-2252.
Splendido: Corkage $30. 88 Harbord St. (at Spadina), 416-929-7788.