NLC seeks bring-your-own-wine policy
The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC) is asking government to change liquor laws to allow restaurant customers to bring their their own bottles of wine when they dine out.
"The recommendation has been made, it's in the system now," said Steve Winter, the CEO of the NLC.
"We're optimistic on this."
Winter agrees with restaurant owner Alfred Hynes, who has been lobbying for the legislation to be changed.
Local restaurant broke provincial liquor law
Hynes, the owner of St. John's restaurant Gracie Joe's, had been contravening provincial liquor laws for about eight months by allowing his customers to bring their own wine to his restaurant for a $10 corking fee.
Hynes said his customers seemed to enjoy bringing their own wine.
"People were happy and smiling and delighted that there was this sense of freedom that this was available to them," said Hynes.
He said he had to stop that practice several weeks ago after a competitor complained to the NLC. Hynes has since applied for a liquor licence.
NLC researching wine and restaurants
Winter said the NLC has been researching the issue for about four years.
He noted Newfoundland and Labrador is one of only two provinces that doesn't allow customers to bring their own wine to restaurants. Nor does this province charge restaurants a fee for a liquor licence.
Winter said he doesn't think a bring-your-own-wine policy would affect NLC profits.
"As long as [the wine] is bought through the NLC, it doesn't matter to us," he said.
Restaurant association members worried
Nancy Brace, the executive director of the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, which represents about 100 members, said there's a concern that such a policy would be bad for business.
Brace said the profit margin for restaurants, especially high-end ones, is only about three per cent, and much of that comes from liquor sales.
"It's not a whole lot of wiggle room when you consider that costs of other things keep going up," said Brace. "At a lot of higher-end restaurants, the majority of their returns come from liquor sales," she said.
"If 80 per cent of the restaurants in town offer bring-your-own-wine, the other 20 per cent will suffer."
Brace said her group plans to discuss the policy with Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador, the association for tourism operators, to come up with an official position on the issue.
Change could help?
Hynes, who is not a member of the provincial restaurant association, said he thinks letting customers bring their own wine could be good for business.
"It opens you up to a different demographic in the off-season, it may be advantageous to fill your seats in the off-season," he said.
Winter said he's also personally interested in a change.
"I'd go out more often because it would make going out cheaper for me," he said.
Winter said the province's finance department is considering the NLC's request, adding he has no idea how long it might take to hear back from government.