The bottle is half full, but can you take it home in Somerville?

In 2006, I was one of many celebrating a change in the law of the Commonwealth allowing restaurants to send diners home with unconsumed portion of the bottle of wine they ordered. This opened up the full wine list to any casual tippler, assuming they would have occasion to drink the remainder in the future. While full bottles might be a better deal per ounce for the diner, don’t weep for the restauranteur, markups on whole bottles are still pretty rich, and now smart waiters can upsell you to a bottle with a sly, “well, you can always take the rest home…”

Since then, I’ve taken many a partial bottle home and become quite comfortable with the procedure. Until this weekend, when I was suddenly and without warning refused. A certain Somerville establishment told me that they were not licensed by the city to let me take the half full bottle away.  I even snuck off and got a second opinion from the bartender after the waitress turned me down – same story.

As I read the state law on wine to go, Massachusetts restaurants are allowed but not compelled to do this, so I believe they could have simply said, no sir, we don’t do that, and been in the clear. But they told me they were not allowed to, and I’m having a terrible time verifying that claim. Can anybody tell me if there is an additional license needed in Somerville for leftover wine carryout?  I’ve carried enough Somerville wine out to know that there is no city ban on the practice.

I won’t name the restaurant until I can figure out what the real deal is – I may well owe them an apology – but here’s what I think happened: I think they failed to get the equipment (not the license) necessary for letting patrons take leftover wine home. The equipment turns out to be a special kind of plastic bag and a stapler, and quick search found these wine to go bags available for $72 per 500 pack from a restaurant supply house.

In Massachusetts, the restaurant is required to recork or rescrew the bottle, put it in a clear plastic self-sealing bag made specifically for this purpose, and staple a copy of the meal receipt to the whole shebang. The sealing is to prevent exposing anybody to the dreaded open container laws, and the meal receipt is to substantiate that you ordered and ate food with your partial bottle of wine, another requirement of the wine to go law.  So I’m thinking that this restaurant didn’t stock or possibly ran out of these special baggies, and just took the lazy way out by saying that they were not licensed – which, unfortunately, is a pretty believable excuse for almost anything in Massachusetts.

If anybody knows the real rules of the Somerville wine take-home game, please clue me in so I can either try and help this place get the proper license or equipment, or self-righteously demand a compensatory half bottle of wine.  Because if I could take wine home in a bottle, that’s the first thing that I’d ever do.

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2 comments

  1. Jim Bob

    And the result of your search of the law, and of the City of Somerville’s rules, regulations, and ordinances is what?

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