Montreal’s “Bring Your Own Wine” trend started in the ’80s and the concept is still bringing in customers. Many BYO spots are clustered together on Duluth Street, with others scattered throughout the city. Diners can bring as many bottles of wine as they like, receive service from waiters and usually pay no corkage fees.
Linda Cantin, manager of Steak Frites St-Paul, a Quebec-based chain, says the BYO wine policy is a major draw. “Customers like it so it becomes profitable for us,” Cantin says. “Our restaurant is full on days other restaurants are closed or half empty.” If an unsuspecting tourist stumbles into a Steak Frites eatery empty-handed, waiters are likely to point out the nearest liquor store (state-run in Quebec).
In U.S. states where the BYO practice is legal—only about half—restaurants either reject or limit the practice by imposing fees and other rules. In Montreal, it has proven such a success that even upscale restaurants are happy to have only a BYO liquor license.
Martin Walter, owner of Restaurant La Raclette, says the BYO license gives his Swiss restaurant “a competitive advantage over other fully licensed establishments.” But to make up for the loss of income from wine sales, he sells his food at a higher price.
Montreal food blogger Nicholas Robinson says the BYO practice “is so ingrained here, it doesn’t bring much notice. The restaurants don’t care what you bring, and they’ll open it for you, and some will even provide special glasses and wouldn’t care if you brought your own. Heck, if you brought your own ice bucket, they’d fill it for you.”
For U.S. restaurants with a “Bring Your Own Wine” policy, click here.