For a long while, the State Liquor Authorities had liquor license approval backups of over a year. For fledgling restaurateurs this meant that their bar would be serving only non-alcoholic beverages to some likely very unhappy customers. Though that backups has since been remedied, a workaround put in place back then still remains. The “BYOB” license. While restaurants were awaiting their pending liquor license, they could allow patrons of age (21+) to bring their own spirits and wine to be consumed on premises.
This helped the venues because they were able to help facilitate dinnertime enjoyment for patrons. The thrifty, however, saw this as a major opportunity. In a city like New York where drinks cost an average of $10 in mid level restaurants, the opportunity to buy a $20 bottle of wine and have 6 drinks for $25 is rather appealing! As it caught on, more people began to seek out BYOB restaurants changing the designation from a band-aid to a badge of honor.
These days, with the backup in liquor licenses diminishing, the number of BYOB venues is small but when you do find one, you’re often in for quite a night!
For the unannointed, BYO (Bring Your Own [beer, wine, liquor]) works something like this.
1) Buy large bottles of wine and several packs of beer after work Thursday
2) Gather 6+ friends
3) Make a reservation for 8 (you know friends always drop by when it’s BYO night)
4) Arrive ON TIME or you will lose your table
5) Drink at a quarter of the price at a bar. Sometimes there are corkage fees which can be by the bottle, by the person or non-existent. They usually don’t exceed $5 per bottle which is a heck of a lot cheaper than $5 for a glass.
6) Enjoy the rest of the glorious evening!
To get you started on your path, here’s a taste of NYC’s BYO Scene:
El Parador Cafe
325 East 34th Street
77 Saint Mark’s Place
Afghan Kebab House
764 9th Avenue
El Papasito Restaurant
346 West 53rd Street
One of my personal favorites is Eat Pisode (123 Ludlow St, 2126777624) in the East Village. The food here is incredible, relatively cheap and they have huge portions. They are also completely OK with large groups who get semi-rowdy after a few bottles. The “chasers” even come in jars!
There are of course a great deal many more BYO spots sprinkled all across the city but it wouldn’t be effective or particularly useful to you to list the all here.