Boston needs more liquor licenses, city councilor says

City Councilor Ayanna Pressley is calling for a hearing on how to stop the exodus of liquor licenses from the city's outer neighborhoods to Boston Proper and the waterfront.

At Wednesday's City Council meeting, Pressley will explain her bid to change the current arbitrary limit set by the state legislature on liquor licenses in Boston, which she calls an outdated relic of "Prohibition frenzy about alcohol and a power struggle between Yankee legislators and Irish-dominated local governments."

Pressley might also have to fight the legacy of Dianne Wilkerson - the last time the city got an increase in the number of licenses was at the behest of the currently imprisoned former state senator.

In an "order" explaining her issue, Pressley writes:

The cap on the number of available liquor licenses in Boston drives up the price of licenses and the cost of doing business; and the unnecessarily high cost of doing business makes it difficult for entrepreneurs - particularly small/local-, minority-, and women-owned business enterprises - to bring innovation to the cultural, arts, and culinary arenas. And it unduly burdens entrepreneurs who wish to open small neighborhood establishments, who in some estimates rely on alcohol sales for up to a quarter of their revenue. And in certain communities in Boston, particularly in communities of color, the high cost of liquor licenses also makes it more difficult to develop the range of neighborhood entertainment and dining offerings necessary to attract and retain young professionals and families.

Over the past two years, Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan and Roxbury lost all of its bars when owners sold their licenses to well heeled outlets in the Back Bay and the South Boston waterfront with money to spend - licenses can go for six figures.



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I am so glad

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That there is one politician I can vote for and be consistently pleased with the way I cast my ballot.

Is it too early to start a Pressley for Mayor campaign? :)

Good idea

Far from encouraging drunkenness, more liquor licenses might actually serve to reduce drunken driving, if people can drink at a bar that's kneewalking distance from where they live.

While we're at it, can we extend MBTA service hours until 1 hour after last call so that the drunks can use it to get home, and expand the number of taxi medallions in Boston and the surrounding communities as well so it's not damn near impossible to find a cab at 2am?

Boston doesn't have much of a problem with this ...

Not disagreeing with your point, but as an FYI, data shows that Boston doesn't have as big a problem with drunk drivers as other major US cities.

I'm not sure of the good Councilor has written about this, but a big question I have is - how do you limit where the bars / restaurants can open? Yes, neighbors can complain and push to keep them out, but how do we know this won't end up with twice as many bars in the DTX / Back Bay / Beacon Hill / South End and still none out in the nether lands?

In the North End there are

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In the North End there are (5) restaurants that have been approved for a beer and wine license. However unless you go and buy one from a location that is closing then you wait forever. There is a cap in the North End and a long process to get approved just to have it never mind get one.


You don't limit

By flooding the market, you destroy the six-figure market for liquor licenses and make them cheap enough that local watering holes in the boonies can make more money using them than selling them.

We'll likely end up first, as you point out, with twice as many bars downtown. Then three-quarters of them will fail as the market finds its level.



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By adding more bars/restaurants in the south end, back bay, DTX, etc, you don't CREATE additional drinkers, you just create variety and price competition. I'd think if you added bars/restaurants to any of these areas, some current establishments (and some new ones) will fail...and that's a good thing for the consumer. Creating artificial demand by saying you're doing it for the "good" of the neighborhood, or your residents (which is exactly what you're saying when someone says XYZ doesn't "need" any more bars/restaurants/liquor stores).

2X downtown

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Is 2X downtown a bad thing?

It does three things:
1) Thins out the herd, packs less people into swills
2) Breeds competition and innovation for the limed number of patrons (think food, more lounges, better atmospheres)
3) Will drive owners to ask for later closing times, which will result in less of the “club sidewalk” effect (people all pouring out of bars at the same time, in into drunken garage fights)

I suppose if you think the downtown city core needs to be as quiet as a rural cow pasture at night this is a bad thing. But I’d argue that kind of thinking will only harm the city once the asshats grow tired of it and leave their luxury condos fortresses and the quiet, but barren wasteland around them. Like the West End, no?

Wilkerson fiasco a good example of why the current system is bad

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I think the Wilkerson fiasco is a good example (of many) for the state to get rid of the limit on liquor licenses and let cities make their own decisions. This would change it from a system where the politically connected (as well as wealthy) restauranteurs get liquor licenses to one where demand/interest of the neighborhood informs the decision. Additionally, by increasing the supply, a restaurant or bar would have to be successful on its merits, not on the fact that they were somehow able to get one of the few licenses in their area.
The state has no business telling Boston how many liquor licenses they can have.

agree but disagree

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Agree, I'd love to see more small, locally owned bars and restaurants, and that the city's old limits on licenses are archaic at best. Almost every other city in the country lets pizza shops and bowling alleys sell beer without making a huge deal about it, not to mention bars.

But that said, the focus should be on growing small businesses. Councilor Pressley risks sounding like Al Sharpton or Chuck Turner and not a champion of Boston or its neighborhoods.

I admire the Obama model. He acts like president of the USA, not the Black USA. And I think it serves him very well.

won't someone please think of the minorities and women

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"the unnecessarily high cost of doing business makes it difficult for entrepreneurs - particularly small/local-, minority-, and women-owned business enterprises "

You've got to be kidding me.

This reminds me of all the talk from Pressley late last year about violence against girls and women.

Yeah. How about all that violence against men, which is much higher? Y'know, like that 4:1 ratio between male and female victims of homicide, for example? Ohhhh, right, the only kind of violent crime that actually matters is rape, and of course, let's not pay any attention to the fact that the FBI considered it impossible to rape a man until recently, didn't collect

OMG, dude!

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You've discovered Pressley's secret agenda: Give women liquor licenses so they can kill men. Through cirrhosis!

Before her storm troopers take you away, though, ponder whether the 4:1 ratio of male/female homicide victims is matched by a 4:1 ratio of male/female murderers.


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Now, how about some taxi medallions?