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Wine To Go in Stapled Doggy Bags


Chris Amirault
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Here in the Biggest Little State in the Union, we've had six months of a law that allows diners to bring home unfinished bottles of wine. An article in today's Providence Journal (click) says that the "Buzz is So-So for Merlot-to-Go":

The law permitting restaurant patrons to take one partially consumed bottle of wine with them if they paid for a meal has been in effect since July 4, but by all accounts the results have been underwhelming. Restaurants say few diners have taken advantage of the chance to bring their wine home in a doggie bag.

...

The law, dubbed Merlot-to-Go, was passed to encourage responsible consumption of alcohol. If a diner had enough wine, he didn’t have to choose between wasting it by leaving it on the table, or overindulging by drinking it before leaving. All a restaurant has to do is put it in a sealed plastic bag and staple the evening’s receipt to the bag. The diner is to put it in his trunk and take it home for consumption there.

When I first heard about this law, I thought it was a great idea and envisioned doing it a lot. Haven't done it once.

Is RI the only state with this law? Has anyone ever gotten their Merlot, Grigio, or Bordeaux to go? What do the restauranteurs here think of it?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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This just came up recently here in North Dakota, I believe they are still working on the legistics. I think it would be a great idea, but i do see it being used a small amount. North Dakota probably has the lowest consumption of wine, but who cares it would benefit me.

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on the Missouri side of Kansas City (perhaps statewide, but I'm not certain) there is a specific, approved bag that restaurants can purchase for this. It can only be sealed once, so if it's been opened it is obvious to law enforcement. I don't believe it is being used a lot, though. There was some discussion a few months ago in The Heartland to that affect.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Laws in this area vary from governing jurisdiction to governing jurisdiction. Some of them are written at the state level, others at the county or municipality level.

To evaluate the effectiveness of Rhode Island's law, however, seems to be a waste of effort. You do it because it's consumer friendly, and it doesn't hurt restaurants (unless those bags cost gobs of money). The article in the Providence Journal is a perfect example of a non-story. Slow news day?

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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In Vermont you're allowed to take the unfinished bottle with you. I found that out after living here for six years, when I went to a restaurant where the menu informed you that you could. It definitely affected our decision of what to drink with our meal: normally, I'd just order a glass of wine, maybe two, and my husband the same. Knowing we didn't have to finish the bottle (hate to leave something to waste, you know), we upgraded to a more interesting wine than was available by the glass.

Margo Thompson

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I read that New York passed such a law a couple of years ago. I haven't heard anything about it since, so whether restaurants encourage this practice or if customers even know about it is another question.

edited to add: oops. Sneakeater beat me to it.

Edited by I_call_the_duck (log)

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

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I've never had any difficulties in bringing a partial bottle out of a California restaurant. Been doing it for a long time. Dont need a special bag either. Common sense puts the bottle in the trunk, because we do have an open container law, but to my recollection, it deals with driver access to said open container. Then again, we can buy booze at the grocery store so our laws seem comparatively liberal on the subject of alcohol acquisition (except for the 21 thing, which we had while much of the US was still at 18).

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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My home state of Maryland enacted such a law last July. I haven't availed myself of it yet as I usually finish my wine :biggrin: .

The law went into effect without much fanfare and I suspect a fairly small percentage of state residents are even aware of its existence. It's nice to know you can do it if you like.

A quirk of the Maryland law states that the open bottle must be secured in a locked compartment, i.e. trunk or glove compartment. I would guess that that provision of the law is roundly ignored by those who are taking advantage of it.

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I've never had any difficulties in bringing a partial bottle out of a California restaurant. Been doing it for a long time.  Dont need a special bag either. Common sense puts the bottle in the trunk, because we do have an open container law, but to my recollection, it deals with driver access to said open container. Then again, we can buy booze at the grocery store so our laws seem comparatively liberal on the subject of alcohol acquisition (except for the 21 thing, which we had while much of the US was still at 18).

in CA the bottle MUST go in the trunk.

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Doing a little googling, I found www.winedoggybag.com (a site that sells one-time use bags to restaurants), which lists each state's laws on taking out an unfinished bottle of wine.

So when in a restaurant, how does the diner know that they may bring their unfinished wine home? Does it say on the menu? Does one ask the waitstaff?

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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I've never had any difficulties in bringing a partial bottle out of a California restaurant. Been doing it for a long time.  Dont need a special bag either. Common sense puts the bottle in the trunk, because we do have an open container law, but to my recollection, it deals with driver access to said open container. Then again, we can buy booze at the grocery store so our laws seem comparatively liberal on the subject of alcohol acquisition (except for the 21 thing, which we had while much of the US was still at 18).

in CA the bottle MUST go in the trunk.

So, if your car doesn't have a trunk, you're not allowed to take it with you? Yikes. I generally fly to CA but I drove out this summer and violated that daily. :shock:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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The law as I learned it (lo these many years ago) was that the driver could not have access to the open container. I've wedged bottles under piles o' stuff in a cooler tho the trunk is easiest. I suppose technically I had access, but its a Rosemary Woods procedure to get at it.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I've never had any difficulties in bringing a partial bottle out of a California restaurant. Been doing it for a long time.  Dont need a special bag either. Common sense puts the bottle in the trunk, because we do have an open container law, but to my recollection, it deals with driver access to said open container. Then again, we can buy booze at the grocery store so our laws seem comparatively liberal on the subject of alcohol acquisition (except for the 21 thing, which we had while much of the US was still at 18).

in CA the bottle MUST go in the trunk.

So, if your car doesn't have a trunk, you're not allowed to take it with you? Yikes. I generally fly to CA but I drove out this summer and violated that daily. :shock:

does your car have a "way back"? we have an suv and if we were to ever not finish a btl :laugh: , we'd put it in the "way back".

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I read that New York passed such a law a couple of years ago.  I haven't heard anything about it since, so whether restaurants encourage this practice or if customers even know about it is another question.

edited to add: oops.  Sneakeater beat me to it.

Chez Sophie in Saratoga Springs wrote about it in their newsletter when the law was passed allowing this.

IMO it shouldn't matter whether the driver has access to the wine or not. If there is suspicion the driver will be tested. If the BAL is above the legal limit the driver will be DUI. If below, then it really shouldn't be an issue especially as legal BA limits have gotten much lower in recent years. If there is no behavioral reason for suspicion no test should be needed.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I cannot comment on what happens on the North American continent but can happily report that in nearly all European countries as in Israel, no-one has ever deemed it necessary to pass such a law and one can request that any open bottle either be sealed and saved for them the next night (often done at hotel-based restaurants, including some of the very best restaurants in Europe) or to request taking the bottle home with them.

And even more amusing, once you have the bottle in hand or in your automobile, no-one cares where the bottle is stashed.

I am not being in the least anti-American, but perhaps am being a bit anti-Puritanical, as Europeans learned long ago that drunken driving accidents have a very high correlation with beer and hard alcoholic beverages and a very low correlation with wine consumption.

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There are drunk driving laws (we catch you while you ARE drunk) and open container laws (we catch you while you are sober, in case you may become drunk). Regardless of whether it is sensible, an open container law is fairly easy to live with. You have to be doing something to get pulled over in the first place, and then something to make the cop look for that open container. Bad idea to flash your Bud can at the nice policemen. They get so much less nice, so very quickly.

If you are waving that open wine bottle around where the police can see it, you probably need to be taken off the road anyway, for impaired judgement regardless of blood EtOH level.

Anyway, the Q was are there other such laws as the one in RI. Answered (by several) for CA.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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does your car have a "way back"? we have an suv and if we were to ever not finish a btl  :laugh: , we'd put it in the "way back".

Perhaps you're confusing moosnsqrl with Mr. Peabody and Sherman? :biggrin:

Well, it's not "way" back because it's a tiny car but it would be a stretch to think the driver could access anything in the cargo area behind the back seat. As I was on the road for several weeks and had done some hunting and gathering (e.g Rancho Gordo beans), the back seats were folded down essentially rendering everything behind me as open space.

As the good Doctor said, I didn't give them any behavorial reason to be poking around splitting hairs about what constitutes a trunk, but I imagine if the fates had conspired to have me pulled over, it would have complicated the situation.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Daniel, what you may be missing -- and what will make you laugh your anti-puritanical laugh even harder -- is that here in New York, until this recent "sealed bag" law was passed, it was ILLEGAL to take the remnants of a bottle of wine out of a restaurant. (I'm not saying it never happened, of course -- but then again I've seen underaged guests accompanied by adults served wine also.) So to us, this actually represents an ADVANCE.

What makes a provincial lifetime New Yorker laugh about this thread is all the concern about driving your wine home from the restaurant. I don't even have a car. And I'll bet that if you took a poll, something like 5% or less of the guests drive to and from the restaurants I frequent.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Daniel, what you may be missing -- and what will make you laugh your anti-puritanical laugh even harder -- is that here in New York, until this recent "sealed bag" law was passed, it was ILLEGAL to take the remnants of a bottle of wine out of a restaurant.  (I'm not saying it never happened, of course -- but then again I've seen underaged guests accompanied by adults served wine also.)  So to us, this actually represents an ADVANCE.

What makes a provincial lifetime New Yorker laugh about this thread is all the concern about driving your wine home from the restaurant.  I don't even have a car.  And I'll bet that if you took a poll, something like 5% or less of the guests drive to and from the restaurants I frequent.

Thank goodness for that :laugh: I wish that were true where I live.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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