Corkage for Charity

Restaurants implementing corkage fees donate big bucks to charities.



A corkage fee can put a damper on a wine and dine evening. But if a portion of that fee goes to a charity, then your favorite wine tastes even better. At least that’s the mentality of restaurant owners across the county, who’ve implemented a corkage-to-charity program.

Napa’s beloved Pearl Restaurant has had this concept in place for six years. They have a $12 corkage fee, half of which goes directly to Napa Humane, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping improve the standard of animal care in Napa County. “Corkage can be tricky and sometimes problematic when your restaurant is located in the Napa Valley, but at Pearl, we’re very grateful for the support we get from the local community, so we came up with our corkage donation program,” says Nickie Zeller, co-owner (with husband Pete Zeller) of the restaurant.

Pearl has donated roughly $20,000 to Napa Humane since the program launched. “Nickie and Pete Zeller of Pearl are such good friends to Napa Humane and the animals and their people that we serve,” says Executive Director Jane Albert.

Here are other restaurants with similar programs:

Farmstead Restaurant, St. Helena CA: Another Napa restaurant that has taken on corkage protocol, Farmstead collects a $2 fee for each guest’s bottle and donates all of the proceeds to a different community-based not-for-profit each month. Since starting the “Corkage for Community” program in March, they’ve donated approximately $1,000 per month.

“Our corkage program is a way we can promote Farmstead as a community meeting place and support our neighboring community at the same time,” says Chris Hall, one of Farmstead’s proprietors. “We want to encourage vintners, growers and wine enthusiasts to come to Farmstead to show off their wines while at the same time contributing to the community.”

Marssa, Loews Lake Las Vegas, Henderson NV: As part of Loews Hotels’ “Good Neighbor Policy,” Marssa’s $20 corkage fee goes directly to DonorsChoose.org, a non-profit Web site where public school teachers describe specific educational projects for their students and donors can choose the projects they want to support. Any corkage fees as part of the hotel’s banquet services are also donated.

New Leaf Restaurant & Bar, New York NY: Opened in 2001 and with all net proceeds going to support Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project, corkage at New Leaf literally turns into new leaves in New York. “The corkage fee at the New Leaf is $25, but like all of our net proceeds, these funds support New York Restoration Project’s cleaning and greening of New York City,” says John Burbank, New Leaf’s general manager. “By raising their glasses and cleaning their plates, patrons are truly helping clean up the community and our city.”

The King’s Kitchen, Charlotte NC: With the theme of “Feast to Feed Somebody,” Charlotte’s new King’s Kitchen is the brainchild of North Carolina restaurateur Jim Noble. He donates $5 of the $20 corkage fee “to feed the poor.”

The Mint, Raleigh NCwww.themintrestaurant.com: Every Monday, The Mint now waives their $20 corkage fee and accepts the corks as donations to give to synthetic cork manufacturer Nomacorc, which then contributes 2 cents per cork to the Frankie Lemon Foundation (they work to ensure specialized education for children ages three to six who have developmental delays, language impairments, learning disabilities or mental retardation). Those who bring in additional corks for donation are entered in a drawing for a $200 gift certificate at The Mint.

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