Filho s Cucina, on Main Street in Groton, is one of only a handful of restaurants in the area that allow customers to bring in their own alcoholic
Filho s Cucina, on Main Street in Groton, is one of only a handful of restaurants in the area that allow customers to bring in their own alcoholic beverages. The BYOB concept works for owner Ozzie Filho. I think in Groton, it absolutely helps my business. (SUN / David H. Brow)

GROTON -- Pete and Therese Braudis walked into the Groton Market on a frigid Friday evening and asked the clerk for a recommendation. They were looking for something that would pair well with fresh seafood. A few minutes later, the Braudises walked out with a $9.99 bottle of crisp Italian white wine.

They walked next door, wine in hand, into Filho's Cucina.

Filho's is one of only a handful of restaurants in the area that allow customers to bring in their own alcoholic beverages, often referred to as BYOB. But despite the rarity of such policies, supporters say BYOB promotes business and allows customers to enjoy lower costs.

"I think in Groton, it absolutely helps my business," said Ozzie Filho, who owns the restaurant as well as another in Acton.

Marina Cantalupo of Westford and Rick Panta of Townsend enjoy a meal at Filho s Cucina, complete with a bottle of wine they brought with them.
Marina Cantalupo of Westford and Rick Panta of Townsend enjoy a meal at Filho s Cucina, complete with a bottle of wine they brought with them. (SUN / David H. Brow)
"For people coming in there to dine, the check is not nearly what it could be if I had to sell them the alcohol. Let's say if I was going to sell a bottle of wine that cost me $10. I could sell that bottle of wine for anywhere from $30 to $35."

Filho's Acton location is larger and operates with a full liquor license. The Groton restaurant on Main Street, which focuses on takeout, only seats about 40 people. It does not have a traditional waitstaff, and instead, orders are placed at a counter.

But for the owner, that smaller structure fits well with a BYOB policy, particularly because the small restaurant can have quicker turnover and higher volume, something that a full bar -- which encourages people to have more drinks and take their time -- might not replicate.


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"Not many people have a restaurant based on that concept," Filho said. "But from my own experience and the 15 years I've had there, if I could replicate it, I'd do it in a heartbeat."

Filho said he sees regular customers dining at the Groton location up to four or five times a week. Braudis, a Groton resident, said he and his family often visit the restaurant with friends, and while they do not visit exclusively because of the BYOB policies -- Braudis spoke highly of Filho's Italian cuisine -- they do see benefits.

Pete Braudis pours a glass of Italian white wine for his wife Therese during a recent visit to Filho s Cucina in downtown Groton. The Groton couple,
Pete Braudis pours a glass of Italian white wine for his wife Therese during a recent visit to Filho s Cucina in downtown Groton. The Groton couple, regulars at the restaurant, purchased the bottle at Groton Market next door. (SUN / David H. Brow)

"If you don't have a liquor license or can't get a liquor license, it's a wonderful idea," Braudis, 71, said. "It does take a bite out of the bill. It is a really nice option for a small place like that."

The economics can often be an incentive. It is common for restaurants to upcharge significantly on drinks, and doing so is often a major source of revenue.

But liquor licenses are also expensive. In Groton, for example, restaurants must pay $3,000 per year for an all-alcohol on-premises license, while BYOB permits are free. Lunenburg charges $25 per year for a BYOB permit, $700 for a wine and malt liquor license and $1,450 for an all-alcohol liquor license.

BRING YOUR OWN: Kellie Laramie of Lunenburg and Nate Tweedy of Jamaica, Vt., share a toast with the wine they brought with them for dinner at Filho s
BRING YOUR OWN: Kellie Laramie of Lunenburg and Nate Tweedy of Jamaica, Vt., share a toast with the wine they brought with them for dinner at Filho s Cucina on Main Street in Groton. Owner Ozzie Filho says the BYOB format makes sense for the restaurant, which focuses on takeout and seats about 40 people. See a video at lowellsun.com. (SUN / David H. Brow)

Allowing customers to bring in their own drinks, then, can be a benefit at smaller restaurants that do not do enough business to make the cost of a liquor license worthwhile.

"We're basically an ice cream place, so I really don't want the alcohol in here," said Rick Santiano, owner of Johnson's Restaurant and Dairy Bar in Groton, which also has a BYOB license. "If someone wants a glass of wine and a beer, at least you're going to get their business as opposed to (the customer going) somewhere else."

Despite those potential benefits, BYOB policies across the region are scattered. A handful of municipal officials in towns between Lowell and Fitchburg say they explicitly do not allow customers to bring alcohol into restaurants under any circumstances. More say they either have no formal rule on the books or have not had any restaurants seek permission to allow BYOB.

Boston began granting BYOB permits earlier this year, and the first was awarded to Roslindale restaurant Seven Star Street Bistro in April.

By law, restaurants cannot have both a liquor license and allow customers to bring in their own drinks. In Groton, customers can carry in only malt beverages or wine, and volume is limited to two 12-ounce containers of beers per person or one 750-milliliter bottle of wine per two people. Similarly, the lone BYOB license in Lunenburg -- granted to restaurant Kebab-e-licious -- allows only beer, wine and cordials. 

Staff need to abide by the same rules as those in restaurants that serve alcohol, and Filho said he has had to stop customers from drinking more or order underage customers not to drink.

Still, though, he said he sees BYOB policies as generally safer than a full bar because no liquor is stored in the restaurant.

"If I could've done it in Acton, I would've done it the same way," he said.

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.