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Omnivore - Corkage fees and bad, bad children at Stella

I went to Stella Neighborhood Trattoria recently and encountered something strange. The restaurant has an extensive wine list, but has yet to get its liquor license. They allow people to bring their own wine, but they charge a $5 corkage fee.

My understanding of corkage fees is that it protects the restaurant from losing profits when people do not order off the restaurant's wine list. But if the restaurant does not have a wine list, then what's the fee for? I could understand if it was a service charge - the waiter still opens and serves the wine, but because no extra wine cost is added to the bill, the server effectively is not tipped for their efforts (something you should keep in mind when you BYOB), but a corkage fee is not a service charge — it goes to the restaurant, not the server.

I find it especially strange in a restaurant that is waiting on a license. If it were a place that was always going to be BYOB, I can imagine a corkage fee for the hassle of buying glassware, etc. But for a place that plans to have wine, and that has not yet acquired the license, not having wine is actually an inconvenience for the customer. Charging them to solve that problem for themselves seems strange.

The restaurant also has a list of "rules" that children who eat there must abide by — no-brainer stuff like not screaming or smearing food around. Having waited on my fair share of badly behaved children, I empathize with the attempt to curtail this behavior before it starts. But I question the hospitality of being presented with a menu that tells you how to act, even if the requests are fair. Apart from that, I'm not sure this tsk-tsking on the menu will actually help with truly badly behaved kids.

It just doesn't seem like good business to make customers feel ripped off and talked down to before they even get food in front of them. But hey, what do I know? The place was packed!





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