The Strange Case of the Disappearing B.Y.O.B.


I’m very fond of places that allow you to bring your own bottle of wine, and don’t charge a corkage fee. Some of these places are doing it because they really want to let you bring your own wine, but more do it because they don’t have their liquor license yet. B.Y.O.B. allows you to drink wine a thousand times better than the overpriced swill you usually get on a wine list at the bottom end, where markups can run as high as 300%.

Several of my favorite new places are B.Y.O.B., at least they were. In the last two weeks, three joints I’m frequenting have unexpectedly altered that policy, leaving me standing with a perfectly good bottle of wine, unable to uncork it. At An Choi, the new Vietnamese sandwich lounge on Orchard Street, the waitress hastened up as I pulled the bottle of Grechetto out of my rucksack. “We’re just about to get our liquor license and if the inspectors see that, we might not get it.” When her back was turned, we managed to pour some into our water glasses, and enjoy the tart, alcoholic white with some pretty scrumptious banh mi.

At El Amacen, an Argentine-Mexican place in Williamsburg, the waitress pulled the same thing. I’d successfully brought in my own wine on two previous occasions, but, seeing me carry in a wine-store bag, she sidled up as if revealing state secrets, “Several other restaurants around here have recently been busted for B.Y.O.B.” “I thought it was perfectly legal,” I replied. “Apparently not!” she exclaimed.” She wasn’t’ able to tell me what the places that had been busted were.

Motorino, near the Graham Avenue stop on the L, is famous for its B.Y.O.B. policy, and I recently clued Fork in the Road readers as to the perfect wine to go with its luscious pies. “They’re not doing that anymore,” my friend Amy noted ruefully. I brought a six pack in and they told me I couldn’t drink it. Then the waiter launched into an informational lecture about the different root beers they had for sale.” “Root beer and pizza,” I replied, wrinkling up my nose, “I don’t think so.”

So what gives?

Read Chantal Martineau’s advice about B.Y.O.B., and places that allow it.

[Update: Eater reports, based on a Grub Street piece, that Motorino has just received its liquor license.]

Most Popular