Michigan’s new law allows customers to bring their own wine into restaurants … where businesses allow

wine law web

Megan Wilson

Contributing Writer

On Friday March 14, Michigan law changed so that it is now legal for patrons to bring their own bottle of wine into an establishment—but not everyone is in love with the new law.

“When I first read the provisions of the law, I thought that it was a great way to promote Michigan wineries, but now I’m really not so sure,” said Lori Hodgson, owner of Murray’s Bar and Grill of East Jordan. “I haven’t made my decision as to whether or not we’ll allow wine.”
She added, “It’s a little early and we have to work out something.”

According to House Bill 5046—which was recently signed into law by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder—it is now legal for a consumer to bring on the licensee’s premises a bottle of wine that is produced by a wine maker, a small wine maker, or an out-of-state entity, that is the substantial equivalent of a wine maker or small wine maker in its original sealed container by a consumer who is not prohibited under this act from possessing wine.

“This is just another stupid piece of legislation that the government made because it doesn’t have its priorities straight,” said Valerie Glasgow, owner of Water Street Café in Boyne City. “We have schools that are closing because they are out of money and they are worried about how to control wine sales.”
She added, “I think that this is going to hurt a lot of businesses. I just paid almost $25,000 for a resort license.”
Glasgow said she feels the new law will not help support Michigan wines.

“As of this time I just have too many questions to make a decision as to whether or not we’ll allow outside wines in,” she said.

The law does give restaurants the option to refuse to allow outside wines. And, it gives businesses the right to charge a corkage fee, which includes a charge for using the restaurant’s glassware and servers serving the wine.

“For us, we don’t offer Californian or New World wine. This law gives people who have their favorite wine or special bottle an opportunity to use it,” said Nate Jason, Manager of Boyne City’s Café Sante. “Prior to Friday, it was illegal for people to bring in outside wine. I think that it could increase wine sales. I have a gentleman who is a Bordeaux collector—he was very happy that he’ll be bringing in his own wine.”

Jason added, “I look it at as another opportunity to serve our guests. Obviously you can’t carry everything to serve everyone. This gives us the opportunity to serve great food and a great bottle of wine.”

Justin Gibbert of Red Mesa Grill also supports the new law.

“I don’t know if it will affect us a whole lot. We are not a huge wine destination,” he said. “We’re up for it. If someone wants to bring in a bottle of wine, we’ll do it.”
Gibbert added, “But, we will be charging a corking fee.”

According to the Detroit Free Press, the typical mark-up on a bottle of wine is two to three times its wholesale price. And, some restaurants have begun charging a $20 fee to bring your own wine, and limiting the number of bottles you may bring into their restaurant.