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Colorado ‘Corkage’ Bill Introduced and Quickly Killed By Colorado Senate

On February 4, 2020, a  bill that would allow “corkage” in Colorado (allowing consumers to bring wine into restaurants) was introduced to the Colorado Senate – and just eight days later, was unanimously (5-0) killed in committee.  The full text of the proposed Colorado Senate Bill 20-154 can be read here.

First, what is “Corkage?” Corkage is a charge by a restaurant or bar for serving wine that has been brought in by a customer.  The law of the land in Colorado is that customers may not bring their own wine into restaurants for any purpose.  Colorado residents and tourists have bemoaned this restriction for years.  Many other states permit this practice, and customers have grown to appreciate it, and restaurants have learned to monetize it.

The summary proposed Colorado Corkage Bill (SB 20-154) is:

The bill requires an establishment that holds a hotel and restaurant license to sell alcohol beverages for consumption on the premises to allow a customer of the licensee who is at least 21 years of age to bring one container containing up to 750 milliliters of vinous liquor into the licensed premises where meals are actually and regularly served for the on-premises consumption by the costumer or the customer and the customer’s companions who are also at least 21 years of age during a meal that the customer, and the companions of the customer, if any, have ordered from the licensee, unless:

  • The customer has brought a container of vinous liquor into the licensed premises in the previous 24 hours;
  • The licensee or any agent of the licensee reasonably believes that the customer is under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  • The licensee has ceased serving meals for the day or is preparing to cease serving meals for the day; or
  • The licensee reasonably believes that the customer has committed any of certain unlawful acts on the licensed premises.

The bill allows a customer to reseal and remove from the licensed premises an opened container of partially consumed vinous liquor that the customer brought into the licensed premises.

As you can see, the proposed Colorado Corkage bill was not very good at all.  I have three major issues with it:

1) It only applied to establishments with Colorado hotel and restaurant type licenses.  This excludes quite a few of other types of Colorado liquor licensed establishments such as bars (tavern licenses) and restaurants with non hotel and restaurant licenses, for example, Colorado brew pubs, beer and wine licenses, club licenses, etc. 

2) It required establishments with hotel and restaurant type licenses to permit customers to bring in their own wine.  Simply, I disagree with the government requiring (aka “forcing”) any establishment to conduct business in this manner.  I prefer to see it as an option available to licensed establishments to offer guests.

3) It allowed customers to bring only one 750ml bottle per 24-hour period.  I would prefer to see that limit increased to permit bringing large format bottles (ex: 1.5L), so perhaps 750ml per person, regardless of size of bottle would be clearer.  This bill did not seek to change responsible vendor, i.e., over service, rules, thus, larger format options should not be an issue.

In any event, the Colorado Corkage bill was killed by a 5-0 vote to postpone the bill indefinitely and I doubt we’ll see anything like it again for a while.  

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