A Call to Arms!

In this post I call my fellow Virginian wine lovers to arms. Virginia has any number of state wine laws that make no sense. Most of these are designed to protect the State’s wholesalers, who have a powerful lobby, at the expense of the wineries themselves. You can find more information on this phenomenon at the Virginia Wines site. (I hope I do not end up looking for a job as a wine wholesaler in the near future.)

Here I write about one law in particular that needs changing. Have you ever wanted to go out to dinner knowing exactly which bottle of wine you wanted to have with it? Well, in most civilized places, you can have that bottle at the restaurant in exchange for a corkage fee. Not in Virginia. In Virginia, ABC Law 4.1-315 makes it illegal for a restaurant to allow a consumer to drink alcohol that he or she did not legally purchase on the premises (see page 27).

So who does this benefit? Certainly not you and me, the citizens of Virginia. It does not benefit the restaurants, as any profits lost on the sale of wines would be made up by the corkage fee (which is not specifically outlawed, by the way). It seems to me that Virginia’s wholesalers/wine distributors are the only beneficiaries.

So what can we do about it? I contacted my State Representative and Senator, who have promised to look into the issue. While one complaint may not get very far, several complaints might actually start something. Therefore, I encourage all of you to contact your representatives through Virginia’s Lobbyist-in-a-Box online system. Wine and democracy, a perfect match.
Update Sept. 8, 2007: Apparently, many in the restaurant business in Virginia are very much against allowing corkage fees.  The restaurant owners claim that losses would not be offset by the corkage fee, and it would force them to charge more for meals that are expensive to produce.

I do not claim to be an expert in the restaurant business, so I welcome comments from those who are.  That being said, I find this justification very hard to believe.  Restaurants could set their own corkage fees so as to fit their own budget.  For that matter, they could choose to maintain a no corkage policy.  Furthermore, many jurisdictions in this country, including the neighboring District of Columbia, allow corkage fees . . . and they are often very reasonable.  I guess this just demonstrates how grossly overcharged we are for wine in the Commonwealth.

I would love to hear what others think about this.  Maybe I can learn something here that will change my mind.  In the meantime, if I want to drink my own wine, Virginia businesses will be losing my patronage to D.C. restaurants.

Note: I would like to commend my Commonwealth Senator, Patsy Ticer, for looking into this.  She did an excellent job researching the issue and followed up in a timely fashion.

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Don’t forget to VOTE!

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Published in: on June 13, 2007 at 9:56 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I just stumbled upon this great video of the Nantucket Wine Festival. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    http://nantucket.plumtv.com/videos/wine_festival_2007_highlights

  2. […] A Call to Arms is the title of the post by wine writer, who is incensed with Virginia’s pointless wine laws. Wine with Dinner. […]

  3. […] A Call to Arms! In Virginia, ABC Law 4.1-315 makes it illegal for a restaurant to allow a consumer to drink alcohol that he or she did not legally purchase on the premises (tags: virginia wine) […]

  4. The restaurant owners claim that losses would not be offset by the corkage fee, and it would force them to charge more for meals that are expensive to produce.”

    What about those who do not drink wine? Are the restaurant owners subsidizing their meals? I doubt it.

  5. Thanks for the good resource for an out-of-stater (CA) and works in the food industry. The laws are in place just to support the ABC monopoly, as well, its unfortunate that owners aren’t on board. They would still have complete control over their own procedures, just have more choices. Think of the wine collectors with no cooking skills! DRC is just not as good with E-Z Mac.

  6. The alcohol choices in VA are appalling. Ever been to an ABC store? Stone age.


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