The provincial government announced last week that diners can now bring their own bottle of wine into participating restaurants and enjoy it with their meals.
"We want to provide our restaurant industry with greater flexibility in terms of the services it can offer to its customers," Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for liquor, said in a press release. "Today's change does just that - it allows custom-ers to pair their favourite wine with their favourite restaurant."
Participation in this service by licensed restaurants is voluntary. Patrons will be required to have the wine served in the same manner as wine selected from the menu and restaurants may charge a corkage fee for this service. Preliminary indications are the corkage fee could range from zero to upwards of $25 per bottle.
The news was met with mixed reactions from local restaurant owners and managers.
Alex Chronakis manages Minoas Taverna, the longtime Greek restaurant at 3823 Kingsway.
"I don't like it," said Chronakis. "I know it's done in Montreal, but I think it will be bad for business.
"The margins for food are so tight right now, and alcohol sales are what keep you profitable. - As of right now, I don't think we'll be volunteering for this program."
Offering a different opinion is Bob Farahani, food services manager for the City of Burnaby, which runs the Riverway Clubhouse in South Burnaby.
"It's good because it gives the industry more flexibility," said Farahani. "Restaurants can choose to join or not to join."
Farahani said he won't make a decision on whether to volunteer for the program for several months.
"I think this will be good for small restaurants who don't carry a big wine list, and it's good for facilities like ours that host weddings or big receptions. It gives you flexibility, and it gives your customers more options," he said.
"I do want to see how it works for everybody else, so that's why we'll hold off on making a decision. - Overall, it's a good thing because anything that helps drive more people into restaurants is something I welcome."
According to the province, businesses are still liable if patrons are over-served or liquor service is provided to minors.
"I have concerns about this," said Chronakis. "When we're serving somebody, we can cut them off, but if people are bringing their own wine, that becomes more difficult."
Farahani agreed, saying: "The tricky part is the liability. How do you keep track? What will definitely be needed is a strong policy on how you move forward, and that will take time."
The change is supported by the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association and the Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association.
"The government continues to introduce common-sense solutions such as the Bring Your Own Wine program. This gives industry the needed flexibility to get people out and dine more," said Ian Tostenson, president and chief executive officer of the British Columbia Restaurant and Food Service Association.
"More business will result in positive economic impacts such as increased employment and downstream benefits to suppliers of the industry. This is a very innovative, flexible and commonsense policy."
"Restaurateurs, especially those with limited wine inventories, welcome the option of allowing their guests to bring their own wine," said Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president of Western Canada for the Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association. "This liquor policy change allows those restaurant guests who want to celebrate a special event by bringing a vintage bottle of wine from their own cellar to their favourite restaurant to do so."