Friday, November 16, 2012

Hailey moves to defend corkage fees

City attorney appeals to Idaho attorney general

Express Staff Writer

The city of Hailey has called for the attorney general of Idaho to review state laws with regard to wine corkage fees in restaurants. 

Restaurants customarily charge corkage fees to those who bring their own bottles of wine to dinner. Essentially, the fee covers the costs of uncorking and pouring the wine, as well as the use of glasses.

City attorney Ned Williamson called for the legal review after a Hailey restaurant owner was warned by an Idaho State Police officer that the practice is illegal. 

In a letter written by Williamson on Oct. 23 to the office of Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Williamson defended corkage-fee charges.  

“Both restaurants and customers apparently like the corkage practice,” wrote Williamson. “Customers are able to bring their wine of choice, which may not be available on the wine menu. Restaurants like to give their customers more choice without having to stock numerous wines.”

CK’s Restaurant in Hailey charges a $25 corkage fee, which co-owner Rebecca Kastner says is not enough to offset losses of revenue from selling her own wine inventory at retail prices.

“It used to that be someone would bring in their own wine two times a week. Now it is several times per night. It (corkage) hurts us a lot because there is a lot of labor involved. Restaurants make all of their profits from beverages,” Kastner said.

Idaho law prohibits retailers (restaurants and bars) from purchasing or receiving wine for resale, except from a distributor, unless the retailer is wholly owned and operated by a licensed winery, in which case the retailer may receive wine for resale from that winery.

“At most, the retailer would have transitory possession of the wine for the purpose of pouring the wine for the customer,” wrote Williamson. 

“Under this interpretation, the corkage practice is not prohibited under Idaho law.”

The city of Hailey is awaiting a review of Idaho law pertaining to corkage fees.


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