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Restaurants like new rules, but don't anticipate big changes

NANAIMO – Diners will now be able to bring their own bottle of wine to enjoy at certain restaurants.

Diners will now be able to bring their own bottle of wine to enjoy at certain restaurants, but local business owners are not anticipating a big change.

The province announced the new regulation last week, when it took effect. The change allows people to take a bottle of unopened, commercially produced wine into a licensed restaurant to consume with their meal, to be served in the same manner as wine selected from the menu.

Restaurants can choose whether to participate in the Bring Your Own Wine program and the change only applies to establishments with food primary licences.

Restaurants can charge a corkage fee and a standard 750 ml bottle must be shared by at least two people.

Thomas Robertshaw, co-owner of Acme Food Co. on Commercial Street, said it is common practice in many parts of the world and he will participate.

"If I don't have a particular bottle of wine that people want, I'm happy to open it," he said. "I don't think it's going to be coming in droves."

Robertshaw said the markup on wines at Acme is close to the corkage fee, so people won't really be saving money, and he anticipates that people would probably only do it for special occasions like a wedding anniversary.

Mike Atherton, co-owner of the Firehouse Grill on Victoria Road, also plans to participate and charge a corkage fee if people want to bring in their own wine.

"If people don't like your wine list, but they love your food, this way they'll be able to come," he said. "I think it will make people happier. Our wines are pretty cheap anyways. It's not going to mark down their bill a whole lot."

Atherton doesn't think that people will choose to bring their own bottle too often – perhaps the odd special occasion such as a wedding rehearsal dinner where people want to sample a wine being served at the wedding or a wine that has special meaning to someone.

"I think this is more of a fine dining or big city thing," he said. "I just can't see it affecting us that much."

Frank Naccarato, owner of the local Moxie's Grill and Bar franchise, sees only positives in the new regulation.

"I don't see it as a big difference – most of our wines are not marked up that much anyways," he said. "It's still a nice thing to have that ability, if you have a favourite bottle of wine. Our focus is always to give you value for your dining experience."

Naccarato, who plans to charge a $10 corkage fee, said he can't see too many people taking the additional step of stopping at the liquor store on their way out to dinner.