Boy O'boy I've missed alot.....I bought an older building on Argyle and I've been in rehabilitation for the past two months. I'm restarting the thread on BYOB, so that others do not miss this important information and, selfishly, to gain some recs.
At one point in my pre-landlord life I was going to start a website relating to BYOB resturants in Chicago. I went so far as to visit that Chicago office that issues liquor licenses to find the specific ordinance that allowed BYOB's to operate. What I found out was it is the absence of regulation that allows you to consume liquor on the premises. Therefore, the posts that explain that BYOB to a resturant is not illegal are correct.
However, I was surprised at the additional information that I was provided. An establishment with a liquor license is able to obtain dram shop insurance, a resturant without a license cannot obtain this insurace at any price (I confirmed with only one agency). Dram shop insurance is an arcanely named product to CYA in the event someone gets a bit tipsy and hits his or her head on the way out of your resturant (not to mention the more horrific nightmares we can each envision). I must admit I was much more respectful of those resturants that did not provide the service even though they could.
I was told by the helpful folks at the liquor commission that the only way around the liability is if the resturant offers no assistance with your BYO liquor. That means no pouring, corkscrew or even glasses. I found no caselaw on the subject.
Based on my unscientific analysis, there are two main catagories of BYOB resturants, (1) those small and usally ethnic resturants where the financial obligation of a liquor license would probably not be supported by the revenue and (2) new resturants that haven't cut through the red tape to get a license before they open (now, maybe even a marketing tool to help with opening buzz). I usually avoid these because so few resturants now even attempt to get their game plan down before they open.
The third catagory are a few resturants that seem to have made there mark as BYOB's and are sticking with it. The one that comes to mind is Tomboy (also the place on Irving Park and Broadway, but I can't remember the name...so I guess it doesn't come to mind).
The third category is the smallest, but I feel more comfortable in those places. I've had a few embarassing expiriences with places that change their policy without informing the public. The little bakery cafe in Lincoln Square (Cafe Selmarie??) will never get my business for the rude way we were treated a week after they got their liquor license. They could have just charged a corkage fee to make up the difference or at least been polite with the rebuke. I know the Dellwood Pickle allowed BYOB for several weeks after they got their license, but politely explained their policy at the time. Perhaps the most responsible thing to do would have been a sign out front thanking customers for their patronage while waiting for the liquor license (I've seen something on this order twice (Cafe 28 and Dellwood)).
FYI, I was at Tomboy the other night. I brought a nice cabernet, which I picked up while traveling. (FYI2, this is why I like BYOBs...I get to drink some bottles I buy while traveling without having to make a fine meal myself). Anyway.... the meal was great, the service was pleasant...we had a good laugh that the waitress was overworked and the host had to do most of our serving without skipping a beat.
So...as I said at the beginning of this long post, I'm looking for some additional recs. Any word on The Room (related to Tomboy)?
The reason I never did the website...Chicago Reader finally added a BYOB button to its search engine.