Bill would give Boston new liquor licenses, but it's not necessarily an immediate boon for outlying neighborhoods

A bill in the legislature would give Boston new liquor licenses to dole out, - 55 for a wide swath of Boston business districts and 75 specifically for areas that have had trouble getting them - but also a whole series of other parts of the city.

Although the measure seeks to improve the odds of small entrepreneurs in areas such as Dorchester, Roxbury and Hyde Park of getting one of the licenses, the proposed law would also let the Boston Licensing Board award licenses in areas such as the South Boston waterfront - where national chains have been busy snapping up liquor licenses from the very neighborhoods the bill purports to help.

This is because the law says 55 of the new licenses -- 25 for all alcohol, the rest for beer and wine - can be granted in "main street districts, urban renewal areas, empowerment zones or municipal harbor plan areas."

In 2000, the BRA designated the South Boston waterfront as a "municipal harbor plan area."

The BRA is currently working on a similar plan for the waterfront along the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Another 75 licenses would be set aside specifically for "Dorchester, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill and Roxbury" as well as "areas designated by the Boston Redevelopment Authority as main street districts." These districts include Roslindale Square and Centre Street in West Roxbury. The licenses would become available in batches of 25 over a three year period.

The proposed law, however, would bar the licenses from being transferred out of the neighborhoods in which they're granted.



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Good start- now let's get rid of the cap altogether

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A liquor license should be like a driver's license, i.e., something that the city or state can revoke if the license holder doesn't comply with the license terms/laws. Not some valuable piece of property.

I'd say the same thing about cab medallions.


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Nothing solves bureaucracy like more bureaucracy.

So, instead of issuing licenses that have the same full value as those that are universally allowed to travel around the city, these depressed neighborhoods are going to get licenses that can't leave the neighborhoods and so will be worth less (worthless? the market will tell) than the others.

Any other restaurateur can get a new license and at least know they have the insurance policy of selling that license on the open market to recoup loses as they go out of business. But there's an artificial barrier to these licenses which will keep their value lower and make harder, faster decisions for anyone going under in one of these neighborhoods who needs to sell what value they can get to someone else who is willing to open in only these neighborhoods.

On the other hand...

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They won't have to go deep into debt to pay some shady schmuck big bucks for a license transfer in the first place.

Following what JCK said, the whole idea of transferable licenses is a shameful corruption of the concept of licenses. A license should be a certificate that applies only to a specific operator, one that certifies them to uphold the law, and one that can be revoked at the determination of the board. It should not be possible to "buy" a license in the open market. All [recurring] fees to obtain a license should go towards administration and mitigation of external costs of alcohol consumption: emergency services, clean-up, etc.

Except that there are very

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Except that there are very few restaurants worth going to in Dorchester (at least, I don't live in any of the other neighborhoods) so this will lower the barrier to entry for people who want to establish restaurants. Actual restaurants, not places selling what can only be called pizza if one has never eaten real pizza before.

Dorchester has a wealth of

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Dorchester has a wealth of great international restaurants, Vietnamese, Cape Verdean, Haitian, Dominican etc.

You should visit Dorchester

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224 Boston Street
Ashmont Grill

That's just a few.

Of course, were you to ask me to name restaurants in Mattapan Square, Dudley Square, or Grove Hall, I would scratch my head. And this is why this legislation is needed.

Restaurants in Dorchester

All the places mentioned above have liquor licenses (not disputing that they are great as I frequent many of them). There are more great places, like Dot2Dot Cafe and Sea Breeze Mexican Grill that really need licenses. I once had a friend who is not much of a drinker decline an invitation to the Sea Breeze because she wouldn't be able to have a margarita with her meal.
And the owner of Dot2Dot testified at a hearing that she can't sustain a dinner trade without a wine and beer license.

Just pointing out

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That there are good restaurants in Dorchester.

I should be too hard, as the original poster did agree that there is a need for more neighborhood licenses.

That mentality

is a major part of the problem in this city. Have you noticed that every new alcohol serving establishment that pops up seems to fit a mold: trendy, overpriced, overhyped, and the next "innovative, it place to be"-right up until the next trendy, overpriced, overhyped, and the next "innovative, it place to be" is announced? I give it a few more years until the bubble pops on these.

I'm glad to see the "little guy" get a chance to obtain one without the barrier of bloated aftermarket prices that are so high, even if they could swing one, it'd probably be impossible to make up the cost fast enough to stay in business in these areas. It's also nice to see that people won't be able to just squat them and then flip them on the open market.

We don't need a StubHub for liquor licenses, sorry man.

Do the writers for BostonInno

Do the writers for BostonInno even know where Roslindale, Hyde Park, and Roxbury are? As someone who reads their work and tweets, their world usually seems to go maybe as far south as Jamaica Plain, even then not that frequently.

So if i read this correctly

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So if i read this correctly this would mean you could get a new license for Allston Village and Brighton Center, but not places like barries corner or Cleveland circle?

How are the Main Street districts actually defined?


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List of main-street districts. No maps of specific boundaries, but the names will give you a rough idea of the areas.

This page doesn't specify exactly how a district gets designated, but it sounds like a first step is merchants in a particular area getting together and petitioning the city.

Brighton has had 4 local bars

Brighton has had 4 local bars close since I moved there two Mondays ago. Would be nice to keep the licenses there.

Seriously what the hell is up with so much stuff closing in Brighton Center/Oak Square? Do we need space for another dozen hair salons?

Freakin CASTLEBAR :((((

Freakin CASTLEBAR :((((

Well, they close tomrorow.

Green Briar was sold and I'm also told the Brighton Beer Garden will be closing soon.


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Tell me they ain't closing the Briar. Who did it get sold to?

Didn't know about Castlebar.

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Didn't know about Castlebar. But can't say I'm surprised.

I'm honestly glad the Beer Garden is shutting down, but hopefully the Briar will live on.

Brian (at Joey's) said the

Brian (at Joey's) said the Beer Garden location simply does not do well for anything but it is sad to see so many institutions falling in that one small area all at once. Imperial Pizza, all these places, what/s next? I may be a very new resident to Brighton but I hope this doesn't hurt the area as a whole.

The guy I talked to at Castlebar said this was due to people not going out at night in Brighton anymore which is disturbing.

I am surprised that at least

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I am surprised that at least the BBG didn't try to hold out longer with that new apartment complex right now.

I am hoping this will lead to some new Restaurants opening up in the area maybe something Ala Washington Square.

Wash. Sq. vs. Brighton Ctr

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Three major differences:

1. Wash Sq. has much better T access;
2. Wash Sq. has much more parking (and no resident parking restrictions); and
3. The income level of people in the immediate area is much higher in Wash Sq. than Brighton Center.

It seems to me those three things are something like the holy grail for someone looking to operate a restaurant/bar.

I also think that the culture of the "neighborhood bar" is not as popular amongst today's 20 somethings as it was some time ago. I think today's 20-somethings are more likely to go downtown now (to the newest trendy place, as someone above mentioned), whereas, when I was in that cohort (~ 10+ years ago) we were always more inclined to say "I don't want to go all the way downtown".

I loved Oak Sq. (The Last Drop!) and Brighton Center (seeing Black47 at the Briar is one of my happiest memories of my 20s), but truthfully, it just doesn't do for me now what it did then. I can't really put my finger on why, other than perhaps I'm looking at 40 in the relatively near distance.

I might not be representative

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I prefer the neighborhood bar (though I'm not a 20-something anymore) and when I do go out I tend to go to other neighborhoods' bars.

And now I have zero reason to go to Oak Square again... which is probably how the old timers there prefer it. Oak Square is continuing its decline into a typical dead Boston square: a pizza joint, a packie, and a Dunkie -- little else.

I will give you 1 and 3

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I will give you 1 and 3 (though the new building coming into brighton are not cheep)

But having lived in both, i would rather loop for parking in brighton center than Washington sq. Unless there is a BC football game. The 2hour limit and no overnight and meters till 8 rub me the wrong way.

No one goes out in Brighton

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No one goes out in Brighton at night because there are better places to go. The Briar and Devlins are fine, but I'd much rather head over to Allston if I want to stay local or just go downtown.

I've lived in Brighton for

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I've lived in Brighton for the past seven years, and I was a semi-regular at the Castlebar. The Castlebar's closing can partly be explained by demographic shifts, the fact that rents in the neighborhood have gone up significantly etc. but the prime reason is that the Castlebar offered next to nothing that would inspire new business and frequent patronage from the locals most inclined to go out.

The only reason I frequent any of the bars in Brighton is to play in the local dart league. None have a proper cocktail program (i'm excluding restaurants even though 'proper' would exclude the restaurants too), all have incredibly underwhelming draft beer programs with the sole exception of the Irish Village on Western Ave. which is surprisingly good, either no food or Sysco slop, forgettable atmosphere, unwillingness to cater to the preferences of their dwindling existing client base etc.

If your regulars die/move away - ex: Castlebar used to be heavily patronized by Irish construction workers employed on the Big Dig who lived in the neighborhood but have left the country or moved to the suburbs - you can't afford to ignore every trend in the industry for the past 20 years and expect to stay in business.

Many people in Brighton go out, and there's a very high concentration of young professionals and college students, but there's almost nothing to compel them to stay in the neighborhood on a Friday/Saturday night. I think there's an opportunity for a new neighborhood bar for someone who's willing to actually work it.

How can the Brair Group sell

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How can the Brair Group sell the Green Briar? Thats horrible.

I am sad that Castlebar is closing, I had heard good things, now that I am moving down washington a ways I had planned to check it out.

I may be the only one who

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I may be the the only one who feels this way but I don't want more booze or barrooms or liquid establishments in my area of West Roxbury/Roslindale. I do want more shopping and I do want more restaurants , which I know are tied to liquor licenses. on the other hand, I know that it is unfair that some communities have been denied liquor licenses. But let's please not confuse the quality of life in a community with its number of allotted liquor licenses. There's a whole lot more to quality of life than a couple of barrooms with inebriated drivers at 1 or 2 AM.

Restaurants really cannot

Restaurants really cannot survive in the city without at least a bear and wine license. So this is necessary if you want more quality restaurants in WR/Rozzie. As a resident, I definitely do. I understand your overall point, though, but you're gonna get pilloried on here ha.

No one opens a "bar" anymore

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I admit that there are some places that start out as a restaurant & bar and the food part kind of withers away. However, these days no one is going to go to the trouble of getting all the permits to open a place that mainly sells booze.

West Roxbury & Roslindale are not in any way overrun with bars. If someone can get an alcohol permit to open a place like Sophia's Grotto then I say let's get them the permits they need!

Best news

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As an HP resident thats the best news ive heard in Weeks. How do you know about this? Any official tweets or news links? I would like to share this with my Hyde Park Neighborhood Association.

ll and mainstreets

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Landlord and someone from mainstreets told me. Nothing official yet.

watered down

This is a decent step in the right direction, but compared to the proposals from just a few weeks ago, this bill is more watered down than a bud lite. When Deval brought up this reform, he proposed eliminating the liquor license cap completely. Mind you, this wouldn't necessarily mean that every municipality would give out unlimited liquor licenses - it just meant they could make their own decisions about how to distribute liquor licenses without having to beg the state legislature every time.

The state senate weakened the proposal slightly - they decided every municipality except Boston could manage their own liquor licenses, but Boston at least got 150 new licenses as a consolation prize. There's no rational justification singling out Boston to get hamstrung like that, but at least the 150 new licenses would have lasted Boston a while, and every other city could move past this ridiculous micromanagement.

But the state house's bill intentionally omitted this proposal, and would have kept the status quo. So it looks like the joint committee's bill gives Boston the average of the two bills, and gives every other city a big fuck you.

There's no good reason for the state legislature to to have control over how many liquor licenses a city has, but we'll never convince the state legislature of that.

Too bad

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But this is a first step in the right direction. So let's not let the perfect the enemy of the good. Or at least the "not terrible."

Hopefully this opens the door for further changes to what's quite frankly a ridiculous law.

Can someone explain

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Why these caps exist in the first place?

I'm a born and raised Bostonian in my late 20s. I never understood why the liquor licenses are capped in Boston. Don't we want the city to be filled with fun restaurants and bars? I understand why they would limit the amount allowed in certain areas and zoning and all that but the only excuses i've ever gotten from family and friends is:

Puritan history
Extortion (goverment officials can hold out awarding these in exchange for favors)

Is there any other reasons we get rid of it? Who are the people that support the limits? Do they exist? Thanks for the help my knowledgeable neighbors.

Can't have the Irish drinking too much

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There are actually limits on bar licenses in most of the state, but based on a simple arithmetical formula (X number of bars per 10,000 residents) rather than what is basically an arbitrary decision of the legislature - which dates back to the good old days when the Republican Brahmins who then ran the legislature not only decided to figure out Boston's numbers by themselves but even took away Boston's ability to regulate those licenses (the Boston Licensing Board may meet in City Hall and it may have the city seal on its stationery, but its members are, to this day, appointed by the governor, not the mayor) - back in the days when even the police commissioner was a state appointee.

The Irish

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Or specifically, a distrust on the part of the Protestants in the rest of the Commonwealth of the ability of the Irish to self rule.

It's the same reason the Boston Police Commissioner was appointed by the Governor for the longest time.

Of course, now that there is a liquor license market, there might be concern with disturbing that "market," so things like creating non-transferrable licenses for areas in need of development might be a way of dealing with those concerns.

EDIT- I swear I was writing while Adam was, too.

@waquiot and Adam,

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@waquiot and Adam,

Thanks. I've heard this before. But it seems silly that 100 years (more?) later we're still living like that. It just sucks. As a young person in the city who has seen many of my childhood friends move off to other cities, I wish the city would do more to attract young people. Marty is headed in the right direction with later T and piloting late night areas. I know families and older residents don't want the ruckus, but there are simply TOO MANY RULES in Boston. More liquor licenses would be a step in the right direction I think.

That's about 50% of the city

As written, wouldn't the law allow liquor licenses to be granted all along Washington Street in the South End? That's a Main Street.

And, empowerment zones? Didn't the city say the Liberty Mutual building was in an empowerment zone? That's why Tom Menino was able to give it tax breaks.

Pretty much all of Boston Proper south of the Orange Line to the Central Artery is in an "urban renewal zone".

When Menino gave the red sox

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When Menino gave the red sox and others tax breaks, he called the fenway an empowerment zone. Also the whole squidport. So, even more than 1/2 of Boston, pretty much everywhere.

New Hampshire has a fairly painless

..booze system for restaurants.

They mainly want food to be available to sop up the booze.

It's just one of the various certifications you apply and pay some fee for.

It's more complicated if you want to solely pour booze. You have to become a 'private membership club' and buy your booze retail from them.