. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: BYOB

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Since the conglomerated eruption of nationally franchised family restaurants in the United States in the late 1970s, the vast majority of culinary service establishments have also become purveyors of alcohol. When places like Bennigan's, T.G.I.Friday's, and later Applebee's and Outback Steakhouse began to sweep the nation in response to the rocketing popularity of fast food, they brought with them the assumption that a place where you could sit, talk, have a steak on a plate and endless soda refills was also a place where you could purchase a draft beer, a glass of white zin or a scotch and soda. (They also served as the nation's chief harbinger of obesity, heart disease and deepening lack of respect for culinary proficiency; this however, is another topic for another day.)

Restaurants have more or less continued to cater to the slow-food crowd's propensity for drinking with dinner, partially because it's a relatively painless service to provide, and mostly because alcohol profits make up large portions of restaurant revenues (particularly in New York City, beverage bills often comprise well over half of a restaurant's profit margin). Some would consider the standard restaurant markup on a gin and tonic or a bottle of Bud akin to highway robbery, but considering the brusque and hefty expenses an establishment incurs to simply serve alcohol, those robberies may very well be as reasonable as the market will allow.

Aside from the costs of storing and maintaining various products, a restaurant must also apply for and be granted a legal permit to serve alcohol (in layman's tongue, a liquor license) by their state's Liquor Authority. In some states, this process is fairly painless and expedient; in others it is, in a word, not. The state of New York happens to fall into the latter category, and with over six thousand alcohol-serving restaurants in New York City alone, not only is the process of obtaining a liquor license mind-numbingly complicated, it often takes the lifespan of a hamster to complete. For some, this time is a liability build in to opening a restaurant - it is unavoidable, and must be factored into an establishment's creation. For others, an alternative concept (and the true subject of this edition of the De-Vino Times) is more enticing: BYOB.

The acronym BYOB was popularized in the 1950s, but it's become a household staple on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where BYOB restaurants and cafes have flourished for years. On Clinton Street in particular, Cube 63 is haven for the concept as well as The Orchard and Subo. It benefits both the proprietor and the patron, allowing one to showcase food, fun and atmosphere while the other can still enjoy a glass of wine, a beer or a cocktail at a negligible relative cost (often up to 200% less than in a restaurant where liquor is served). These BYOB places are win-win, and should be experienced frequently and fervently.

Speaking of which... one of the best Italian restaurants in the city, Il Bagatto, is now granting permission for BYOB on Tuesday nights - with no corkage fee. This is an opportunity not to be missed, especially with De-Vino only two blocks away! Imagine the warm, busting atmosphere, a rich plate of Osso Buco, and a bottle of Brunello that cost less than half of what it would have any other night; I don't know if I could bring myself to miss a BYOB night at a place with food that succulent.

Il Bagatto is located at 190 2nd St, near Avenue B. It is two blocks north of De-Vino. Reservations can be made at (212) 228-0977.
Happy BYOB dining!

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