Losing tourist dollars

6 01 2015

I’ve been meaning to write this post since mid-December, but a house guest, Christmas, summer holidays etc. got in the way.

I had a significant ‘zero’ birthday in December, and to celebrate, we intended opening and drinking a bottle of 1990 Penfolds Grange for the occasion (I had purchased it in the early 1990s and we kept it for this birthday). This is a significant wine, and reputedly one of the best Grange vintages ever produced.

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The obvious food to go with such a red wine is steak, and we have a couple of favourite steak restaurants that we like to go to. One of our favourites for special occasions is a steakhouse in Albany, a 750 km (approx 8-hour) round trip from where we live.

As Albany is so far away, we only go there about once a year, and we always stay at least one night, usually two. While in Albany, we eat breakfast along the cafe strip in York St, and often purchase clothes for one or both of us from local businesses. And of course, we purchase fuel on the way there and back, and have our meal at the steakhouse one night and at another local restaurant the other night. All up, I’d guess we would spend well over $500 in Albany if we stay two nights, and potentially more than $1200 if we also buy clothes and local wine.

But this year Albany missed out on all those tourist dollars. Why? Because of one restaurant’s policy in no longer allowing us to bring our own wine (BYO), despite their website menu saying that we could (http://www.rustlers.com.au/images/user-images/documents/Rustlers-Drink-Menus-2013.pdf — see the item for ‘corkage’ at the bottom of the second page). Yes, we were prepared to pay corkage to drink our own wine (for those not familiar with Australian restaurant lingo, corkage pays for any serving of your own wine by waitstaff and providing/cleaning the glassware), but we were prevented from doing so by their policy.

I called the steakhouse to find out if we could bring this special bottle of wine for this special occasion. I was told no (their website — but not the drinks menu — says ‘Strictly no BYO’, so there was a mismatch of information there and I queried them on it). I was told that as they now had a tavern license the Liquor Act prevented them from allowing BYO. I was surprised, as I didn’t think any restaurant in our state could legally prevent a customer from bringing their own wine. Yes, they could actively discourage it, but I didn’t think they could stop it. I checked the Liquor Act and found NOTHING in there that prevented this, although I did find a clause that said a licensed premises could make some decisions about BYO for ‘commercial reasons’. That’s NOT the same as blaming the Liquor Act for this policy, which is what the restaurant did.

The upshot of this commercial decision by the restaurant is that the Albany region lost out on more than $1200 tourist dollars, just for the sake of a single bottle of wine. Where do I get this figure from? Let me break it down, based on past experience:

  • $120 for the meal for two people at the steakhouse
  • $320 for 2 nights’ accommodation
  • $80 for two breakfasts for two
  • $60 for fuel, plus more for drinks/food from the service station
  • $200 for clothing for my husband
  • $200 for clothing for myself
  • $100 for a meal in another restaurant on the second night
  • $200 for wine from the cellar door of a local winery

We were just two people. Extrapolate this $1000+ to other couples or families and you can see that a single policy such as this one could have negative flow-on effects to the local economy. Instead of injecting $1000 or more into local Albany region businesses, we spent nothing there at all.

By the way, our local steakhouse (also a tavern, so if there was something in the Liquor Act they would have said so) allowed us to bring the wine and so they got our business for the evening, which was just $100 as we went home after dining there and spent nothing more on other activities that you participate in as a visitor to a region.