Corkage fee charged by the place you buy the wine?

There’s a wine shop/bar in Claremont, CA (Southern CA) called Packing House Wine Merchants. They have a store connected to what they call a “casual fine dining restaurant with a significant bar area.” Here’s the strange (or not?) thing: if you buy a wine from them and want to drink it at the bar or with food (that you also buy from them), they charge you a $10 corkage fee.

If I were to go to a restaurant, look at the wine list, select a bottle of wine that cost me $65, I would expect my bill to reflect the $65 charge. I would be shocked, as I was in this case, if the bottle actually cost me $75. The damage was done and they wouldn’t take the $10 charge off, but I’m never going back, unless you guys (and girls) convince me otherwise.

Am I crazy for not going back or is the store/bar/restaurant insane of charging corkage on bottles bought from them?


Wine Merchant in the Ferry Building SF also does this.

They have been kind enough to waive it for me.

The justification is that in a restaurant it is built into the markup. In a retail store they are charging you retail prices for the bottle and the corkage is for the stems.

There are a few places here that do this. Retail +$10 isn’t a bad deal at all if the food is decent. If you don’t like it, take the wine home, use your own stems, cook your own meal and clean up after yourself.

It’s a little sleazy to charge you extra for buying the wine next door. But only a little. For me it would depend on the quality of the food, service, atmosphere. Is it worth the extra sawbuck?

This is common, in my experience. And it only makes sense to me. You buy the wine, pay retail, and take it home. Everybody’s happy. You buy the wine, pay retail, and go next door where they perform a service for and you don’t pay them anything extra?

What extra service are they performing? Wash 4 glasses and pour? The cost of the glasses? Eh. Should I pay a shelf fee since I grabbed the wine from the shelf instead of bending over and grabbing it off the ground? The glasses are, IMO (at least so far), part of the overhead.

If market price for said wine is $65 (you could get it elsewhere for roughly this much) then I don’t, at all, see a problem. In fact it can be argued that you’re getting a discount to ‘normal’ corkage ($20+). However if they’ve included a restaurant premium and this wine is really a ~$30 bottle at retail then they shouldn’t be double charging you.

Looking at it another way if you want to drink a bottle of wine that has a retail price of $65 you could:

  1. buy the bottle at retail, drink it at home
  2. buy the bottle at retail, take to a restaurant and pay ‘normal’ corkage ($20+)
  3. go to a restaurant order it off the wine list and pay 2-4x retail

In this case it’s 2) above with a discounted corkage given that you’ve purchased from an affiliated retailer.

I’ll try one more time, but since you clearly feel entitled, I doubt it will change your mind. You go buy a bottle of wine at a grocery store, or for that matter, bring one from your cellar. They charge you the same $10 corkage fee for providing the same (apparently trivial to you) service. But this time you’re OK with that?

Does the restaurant side have a wine list? If the wine was on that list, what was the price in the restaurant?

We are a retailer and wine bar. We don’t charge corkage, though most other retailer/wine bars in town do charge corkage to cover labor costs associated with dish washing. We don’t have employees to pay, so no workman’s comp and no health insurance costs.

We generally take a red wine to any restaurant we eat at and check to make sure the wine we bring is not on their wine list. We also always buy a white wine from the restaurant for starters. I don’t mind paying corkage on any wine I bring. There are plenty of restaurants/states that don’t allow you to bring wine in.

I always try to keep in mind that I wouldn’t bring food to a restaurant and expect them to provide dishes and silverware for free.

OK, I went to their website and find a clearly stated, and inherently fair, corkage policy. Normal corkage is $15 for an outside bottle of wine, and a discounted $10 for a wine you purchased at their store. In my opinion, you are TOTALLY off base.

I think the practice is both common and sensible.

MI state law doesn’t allow corkage, so I’ve been to a few restaurants that have a similar policy. Typical charges are in the $10-15 range, and it ALWAYS winds up being a better value than choosing off the list. Frankly, I’d be really surprised if the restaurant’s cost structure was built into the retail price. As others have said, I don’t see how this is any different than a corkage charge (and a pretty decent one, at that). Look at it this way, are you happier paying retail + 10? Or paying 2-3x retail off the list?


Upstairs 2 is a restaurant attached to The Wine House here in LA. They charge you $10 corkage if you buy a bottle downstairs and bring it up to the restaurant, or $15 if you bring your own bottle from home.
The funny part is, sometimes the prices on the wine list make it cheaper if you buy it off the list rather than in the store.

Case in point… I was feeling for a little Aussie shiraz… was going to get a 2010 Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy. I’ve bought this bottle for $30-35 in stores before, but Wine House sells it pretty expensive ($45). Anyway, it was on the wine list for $50… so going by their corkage fees, it was cheaper to buy it off the wine list, than downstairs in the shop and pay the corkage fee!


There’s a place by my parent’s house that has a full service kitchen/bistro attached to a 2000+ bottle retail shop. Same policy- any wine you want served in the bistro from the shop is priced at the retail price + $10 for stemware/service (and they have good stems). I’ve never had a problem with it as it ends up being far less than any other restaurant in the area, and they put the effort into their stemware and training for their servers.

This fee is very normal, fair, and appropriate. If you want to buy a bottle of wine in a store and drink it at home, you pay a retail price. If you want to buy a bottle of wine in a restaurant, you obviously will pay more. This particular establishment offers both choices. What’s wrong with that?
You should not expect a restaurant experience for a retail price.
Phil Jones

I’m trying to figure out just why this is a problem? [scratch.gif] Seems sensible to me.

Marche Bacchus in Vegas does this…seems more than fair to pay retail +$10 vs. 3X wholesale.

I think your premise is a bit off base. $10 for service, stems and taking up seats is more than fair.

this place has a wine shop as you enter restaurant and they have some very cool wines at just a tad over my usual sources, then charge $8 to open, provide nice glassware and pour. Great deal to me.

Example - we grabbed a 2010 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard that was $39 and payed the $8 extra. A couple months ago I payed $36.99 for same wine at Envoyer. If this wine was on a standard restaurant list, I guarantee you it would be $75+++

I really like this policy and will go back knowing I am not going to get ripped off buying wine there.

Retail plus $10 for a wine you essentially bought from the restaurant for dinner? Seems like a screaming good deal.