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Corkage allowed in MD Restaurants
Governor Signed Bill to allow "Corkage" for restaurants in Maryland

Marylandlawmakers may not have been able to solve the state’s budget woes during thisyear’s session, but they did hand wine lovers another gift. A year afterapproving direct-to-consumer shipping fromwineries, lawmakers approved a bill that will allow “corkage,” thepractice of bringing your own wine to restaurants.

GovernorMartin O’Malley (D) signed the bill into law on Tuesday, just a yearafter he signed legislation allowing wineries to ship bottles directly toMaryland residents without going through a wholesaler or retailer.

Allowingcorkage will bring Maryland into line with the District of Columbia, which hasallowed the practice for years, as well as Virginia, which legalized it lastyear (though implementation has been uneven).

Thelaw contains three conditions, none of which should be restrictive, says AdamBorden, president of Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, alobbying group that fought hard for both direct shipping and corkage.

Those provisions are that underage or intoxicated personsshould not be served, even their own wine (duh!); a wine already on therestaurant’s list may not be brought in (a basic element of “corkage etiquette”widely practiced by wine lovers already); and that restaurants must obtain apermit from their local liquor board, at no cost.

Bordensays that last proviso is likely to be “a check-off box on a restaurant’sliquor license” rather than a Trojan horse that would allow abstemious countyauthorities to block the practice.

“Idon’t think liquor boards will want to mess with some arduous standard forissuing a permit,” Borden said in an e-mail.

Thatmakes sense, especially since corkage will be used primarily by wine collectorsseeking to enjoy a special bottle with food from a favorite chef. Although ifmore people brought moderately priced, currently available wines, restaurantsmight see what their customers are enjoying and diversify their lists. Pricesmight come down, too. That would be a win-wine for diners and restaurants —more wine business, and better prices and selection.

Somethings to remember: Restaurants will be able to allow you to bring wine in, butthey are not required to do so. Even after the law takes effect on July 1, itwill be advisable to call ahead and ask whether the restaurant will welcomeyour wine and what fee they will charge for opening it and serving it to you.The Maryland law does not specify a minimum or maximum fee.

Onerestaurant welcoming the change is Volt, Bryan Voltaggio’shigh-end restaurant in Frederick.

“Voltis a destination restaurant for many of our guests, and based on our nightlyreservations, many choose to celebrate a big occasion with us,” says Volt’swine director, Jill Zimorski. “If not being able to bring in a specialbottle of wine from home would send them elsewhere, then I’m glad that is nolonger an issue we have to contend with.”