The Boston Licensing Board has long acquiesced to a Back Bay neighborhood group's request to only approve new liquor licenses in the neighborhood after an existing license holder shuts down or moves out.
No more, board Chairwoman Nicole Murati Ferrer said today.
"That's certainly not a practice I endorse," she said at a hearing on catering company's request to buy a Fairfield Street restaurant's liquor license for the affairs it hosts at the Boston Public Library main branch in Copley Square.
"A lot of people will be happy to hear that," replied Dennis Quilty, the dean of Boston licensing lawyers, who was before the board representing the Catered Affair, which now has to apply for one-day permits every time somebody hires it to hold a wedding or other event in the library.
Ferrer's comments came after Quilty said the company was planning to spend $412,500 for the liquor license now held by the Saratoga Restaurant on Fairfield Street. He said the Catered Affair had agreed to spend so much because of the board's longstanding policy - put into place before the governor appointed Ferrer to the board - to go along with the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay's opposition to any increase in the total number of liquor licenses in the Back Bay. The association has long said the Back Bay has enough places at which people can get lubricated.
One byproduct of that policy has been to make Back Bay liquor licenses the most expensive in the city, because of the limited number. In 2010, NABB formally opposed the then proposed Deux Ave restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue because the request went before the licensing board before Louis, which held the liquor license Deux Ave would buy, had actually moved out of the neighborhood.
The board requires applicants to meet with neighborhood groups first, but is under no legal authority to go along what those groups recommend.