Why some Quebec restaurateurs said 'non, merci' to BYOB

In 1982, many Quebec restaurateurs worried about the impact of a law that would allow customers to bring their own booze to restaurants.

Licensed restaurant owners feared trend would hurt their business interests

Bring your own wine?

41 years ago
Duration 1:28
In 1982 The National looks at a trend of bringing your own wine to Montreal restaurants.

Thirty-eight years ago, brown bags were helping many Quebecers apporter their booze into restaurants without liquor licences, where their business was welcomed.

"In Montreal, it's not only chic — it's much cheaper," the CBC's Maurice Bigio said, when describing the economical and popular trend on The National on July 15, 1982. "More of these places are opening every month."

But it was not a trend the owners of licensed restaurants found appetizing — not at their own restaurants, nor at competing establishments.

"It's already hurt licensed restaurant owners and business could get even worse," said Bigio. "Now the government says any restaurant can let patrons bring their own booze."

Restaurant owner Jean-Pierre Beauquier told CBC News it was not as if licensed restaurants could simply increase their prices to adjust for the lost revenue.

"Now it's very expensive already," Beauquier said, predicting that raising his prices would simply drive away customers.

Recipe 'for bankruptcy'?

Michel Gillet was not in favour of the new law allowing Quebecers to bring their own alcohol to restaurants. (The National/CBC Archives)

Michel Gillet, a chef and restaurant owner, was similarly pessimistic about the new BYOB law, which was to come into effect the following week.

"We have our kitchen recipes," said Bigio, describing the chef's response in translation. "The government's recipe is one for bankruptcy."

Bigio said licensed restaurant owners believed the government would reconsider the law, given the $45 million they claimed it could lose in liquor-tax revenues.

"This bring-your-own-bottle battle is bound to cause a great deal of confusion and some angry words before it's over," Bigio told viewers.

"It's already causing some cynicism," he added. "As one restaurant owner put it: 'The next thing you know, people will have the option of bringing their own food.'"

Some unlicensed restaurants were allowing people to bring alcohol with them to dinner before the law in Quebec came into effect in the summer of 1982. (The National/CBC Archives)