McWatters Chardonnay with Local Lounge seared tuna … but shouldn’t you be able to take it anywhere? Tim Pawsey photo

UPDATED – JULY 19, 2012…

Well, that was quick.

The BC Government has approved BYOW (as in Bring Your Own Wine). Read the full release here

The program is optional: i.e. No restaurant is obliged to allow patrons to bring their own bottle. And the amount of corkage charged will be at the resto’s discretion.

While most welcomed the quick response to demands to make the change, some establishments worry that if they don’t offer BYOW they won’t be able to compete with those who do. Some are suggesting what’s really needed is a complete overhaul of the system to allow a decent discount. All fair and good. But you can’t do that with an Order in Council.

Our advice? Make the most of it… And (if you’re a restaurateur) get to know the folks at your neighbourhood wine store. Fast.

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As a naturalised Canadian, even though I’ve spent most of my life here, some customs about this country continue to baffle me. Such as the molasses-like pace of change when it comes to reforming our chronically out of date liquor laws.

One thing in particular I’ve always found curious is that—unlike in most of the civilized western world—it’s still illegal in BC to bring your own bottle of wine to a restaurant.

Obviously, we here on the Wet Coast just can’t be trusted (even though it’s been happening for years on the QT) to liberate a favourite label from our cellar or pick up a tasty drop from a local wine shop, and trot on over to our local bistro to have them whip something up to enjoy with it.

But why the heck not?

I’m sure the usual, perpetually negative suspects will weigh in with reasons that will include a hockey riot every month and carnage on the roads but, really, there is no good reason to not allow BYOB.

A few years ago I found myself in Melbourne, widely regarded as one of Australia’s best dining cities. Somebody had suggested checking out a small Thai fusion spot, adding that I could pick up some wine at a bottle shop on the corner of the same block.

I did just that, had an excellent meal and took half a bottle home, all of which struck me as being incredibly civilized and normal. And absolutely illegal back home in BC.

Well, we’ve made some progress. At least we’re allowed to take a half finished bottle away from a restaurant now. But it’s still against the law to BYOB in BC.

One thing our Melbourne meal (it was very good btw) brought home was that allowing BYOB eases the burden considerably for smaller restaurants who either don’t understand wine or who really don’t want to be bothered with maintaining a extensive cellar and wine list.

If you’re on Twitter you may know about #BCWineChat, the weekly Wednesday evening discussion (started by uber Tweeter @TinhornCreek winemaker @SandraOldfield) that revolves around all things wine.

Sometimes the discussions touch a nerve … and last week’s topic about BYOB (tagged #BYOB4BC) was actually trending for a while in Vancouver, suggesting there’s plenty of interest in getting the province up to speed.

More than a few media have also taken note of the on line activity that exceeded well over a million impressions. Read the transcript here.

Hopefully, Victoria has too.

Isn’t it beyond time we caught up with the likes of Quebec and Alberta?

Not to mention Australia and the U.K.—where there’s even a BYO on-line club in London.

We gave BC Restaurant and Food Services president Ian Tostenson a call to see what he thinks about it.

He says his association is all for the idea.

“We’ve had some conversations with (the BC) government and have actually written a formal letter to advise the minister that we totally are in favour of it,” he advises.

“I think it will get more people out to restaurants, especially if they can bring their favourite bottle of wine with them. And in terms of the wineries and VQA stores, if they can be innovative it can be a real plus.”

“The only thing that we ask government to do is to make sure the restaurant has its own ability to set whatever corkage fee it wants to set, and not prescribe that,” he says.

Hopefully, we’ll see some changes.

Soon.