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Can I Bring My Own Drink Into a Restaurant?

Learn whether you can walk into a restaurant with a beverage, alcoholic or otherwise.

I was recently out to dinner with a group of friends, and the topic of bringing your drinks to a restaurant came up. I had no idea that you could do this, but it turns out that in some cases, you can! 

Girlfriends drinking wine and chatting while sitting in the restaurant

In this article, I’ll share what I learned about the etiquette of bringing in your own drink, bringing your own bottle (BYOB), and give you some tips on making it work for you. 


Can You Bring an Outside Drink Into a Restaurant?

Can you bring your own drinks to a restaurant? This question has a lot of gray areas.

Sit-down restaurants are generally more strict about outside food and beverages, while fast food and counter-service restaurants are more lax. 

As for alcoholic drinks, some restaurants will allow you to bring your own if they don’t serve them. However, most restaurants will only allow wines to be brought into the establishment.

Restaurants that allow people to bring alcoholic drinks are usually restaurants that don’t have a liquor license.

Some restaurants will not allow you to bring alcohol if they serve it in their establishment, because it takes away from their profits. They want you to buy it from them, not bring in your own.

Non-alcoholic beverages are usually allowed. Still, it’s always best to check with the host or hostess before bringing them in. If the restaurant offers that beverage, you should probably pay for it, not bring it from home.

Bottom line? Unless you’re at a fast-food place or counter service restaurant, it’s probably best not to bring your own drink into a sit-down restaurant.


When Is It Okay To Bring Your Own Drink Into a Restaurant?

I was out to dinner with friends the other night when one of them pulled a flask out of her purse and took a swig.

I was scandalized—isn’t that against the law? However, there are a few situations when it’s perfectly acceptable to bring your own drink to a restaurant. 

For example, if you’re dining at a BYOB spot (see below), it’s okay to bring your own bottle of wine or beer.

You can also bring your own drink to a restaurant in some cases if you’re celebrating a special occasion—be sure to check with the staff beforehand to see if there’s a corkage fee. 

So next time you’re thirsty (and tight on cash), consider choosing a BYOB restaurant, or calling the restaurant first to ask if you can bring your beverage of choice.

Read on to learn when it’s okay to bring your own drinks.


BYOB Restaurants

Some restaurants that don’t have a liquor license will allow you to bring your own alcoholic drinks. This policy is typically called BYOB or Bring Your Own Bottle

As I mentioned earlier, some restaurants may charge a small corkage fee, which helps offset the cost of glasses and other supplies.

In addition, BYOB restaurants may have stricter rules about noise levels and table manners. So, if you’re looking for a relaxed dining experience, a BYOB restaurant may be the perfect option. If you’re looking to get rowdy, however, this behavior may not be accepted.


Children’s Drinks

Children’s drinks are not alcoholic, so the answer to this is usually yes, you can bring your children’s drinks to a restaurant.

This option is helpful for parents whose children have allergies or other strict dietary restrictions.

As for what kind of drinks you can bring, pretty much anything goes as long as it’s not in a glass container.

So feel free to pack up your child’s favorite juice box or carton of milk. Just be sure to clean up after yourself when you leave!


Dietary Restrictions

If you have dietary restrictions yourself, you may be able to bring in your own drink.

For example, if you are lactose-intolerant, you may be able to bring in your own lactose-free milk.

You may also be able to bring in your own drink if you have other dietary restrictions or allergies. 

For example, people with celiac disease can’t eat gluten, and people with diabetes can’t eat or drink anything with a lot of sugar.

If you have a specific allergy or intolerance, you should call the restaurant in advance to see if they will allow you to bring in your own drink and what type of container those drinks should be carried in.


Final Thoughts

If you want to bring your own drinks to a restaurant, it’s always best to call the restaurant in advance to ask about their policy. You should be aware that you can’t bring your own drinks to every restaurant. For example, you can’t bring outside beverages to fine-dining restaurants. 

If this is an issue that concerns you, there are a few things you can do.

First, you can visit a BYOB restaurant. Or, you can visit a casual-dining restaurant and ask to keep your drinks in a sidecar. 

I have visited a few local BYOBs and brought my own drinks. I enjoyed the experience as I was also able to bring children’s drinks for my kids. 

Have you ever tried bringing your own drinks to a restaurant? How was the experience?

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.