Rules and Etiquette for Visiting a BYOB Restaurant

What’s a corkage fee? Does it affect how much you tip your server? These questions and more get definitive answers from The Town Dish’s Mary Bigham.

Our area has one of the country’s most notable BYOB dining scenes, mostly by necessity. Liquor licenses are difficult and expensive to acquire. And while out-of-staters are quick to whine about Pennsylvania’s archaic laws, no one complains when the bill arrives. We offer a rundown of latest bring-your-own rules and etiquette. 

Be prepared, call ahead. Check with the restaurant about BYOB policies and corkage fee. Most are fully stocked with glasses and ready for bottle service, while others may want you to provide your own. Some supply mixers for custom cocktails, others aren’t equipped to do so.

Suck it up and accept the corkage fee. Restaurateurs are, after all, in the business of making money. Fees typically range from $2-$5 per person or $10-$25 a bottle. Pricing tends to be in line with service. Typically, the staff opens bottles, provides mixers and chills alcohol (when appropriate).

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Pick the right bottle. When dining at a high-end restaurant with a liquor license on a BYOB night, don’t show up with a $12 box of wine. Bringing something that’s already on the wine list also may be frowned upon—and rightly so, since the list was created with you in mind.

Tip generously. Corkage fees usually go to the house, so be sure to tip your server, as well.

Put a lid on it. Legally (in conjunction with a meal), you may remove an unfinished portion of a bottle from a restaurant if it’s resealed. Keep it classy and show that you’re following the rules by bringing a tote or bottle carrier, plus an appropriate reusable cap. (If you turn the bottle upside down and it doesn’t leak, then it’s sealed.) Local municipalities have different open-container laws, so carrying a resealed bottle may be a violation in some cases.

Designate a driver. Never drink and drive. Duh.

NOTE: Laws are often updated and change depending on the area. To learn more, visit

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