If you’re mad there’s now a corkage fee to bring your own booze at Dim Sum Garden, blame rowdy bros.
The Chinatown favorite, known as Philly’s premier Shanghai soup dumpling destination and a choice bacchanalian pre-party spot, has quietly begun to transition away from being a BYOB.
Attracting a new audience was part of the motivation behind the move, proprietor Sally Song told Billy Penn.
Instead of “American young guys” that Song says often make the atmosphere unpleasant, she’s hoping to bring in “clientele that is quieter, a clientele that will make others in the restaurant feel more comfortable.”
With the liquor license obtained around four months ago, Dim Sum Garden now offers a selection of beer and wine. It’s an amenity Song believes will appeal to “convention-goers,” who come to Chinatown in droves searching for food more palatable than the boxed turkey sandwiches and Lays chips conferences often provide.
Another reason for the shift away from BYO is increased competition in Chinatown, Song said — new restaurants keep popping up with liquor licenses already in tow.
For now, you can still bring your own booze, but you’ll be charged a $15 per-party corkage fee.
Even though the policy went into effect months ago, there’s little indication of it online — and some patrons are upset.
On its Google page, Zagat and OpenTable profiles and even on its website, the restaurant continues to be characterized by its BYO status. Only on Dim Sum Garden’s Yelp page is there mention that the restaurant is now serving alcohol.
Song insisted she’s not trying to trick anyone. Instead, she’s trying to prepare regulars for when the restaurant entirely and formally makes the change and disallows BYOB entirely.
That doesn’t mean customers aren’t confused, though, nor does the surprise of a policy alteration placate them when they come to Dim Sum Garden, prepared to enjoy the bottles they picked up in advance.
“I’ve had people coming here, sometimes weekly, for five years,” Song said. “Some of them are okay with it and understand my decision, but new clients and even some regulars will get upset and leave when we tell them about the fee.”
Song cares about her customers, but not enough to revert back to Dim Sum Garden’s old ways. She stands firmly with her decision to phase the restaurant out of the free corkage world.
In recent years, former free-corkers have made the 180-degree shift from the BYO trend that’s been popular throughout the city for decades. In spite of the astronomical price-tag of selling alcohol — liquor licenses can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars — favorites such as Lolita, Fond and El Azteca Uno were swayed to give into suds and shots.
And now, Philly will be losing yet another essential BYO to the liquor license trend.
When can we expect the final phase of Dim Sum Garden’s transition? Per Song, it could take years, but she expects the restaurant to be fully integrated into selling booze sooner rather than later. In the future, plans include expanding the beverage options to hard liquor and cocktails.