Hey, there! Log in / Register

City councilor wants more liquor licenses for Boston

It's time to cast off the decades-old "Prohibition frenzy" and anti-Irish bigotry that's turning Boston into the staid preserve of large national and regional restaurant chains clustered in just one small part of the city, City Councilor Ayanna Pressley says.

The City Council tomorrow considers a request from the at-large councilor for a hearing on ways to convince the legislature to increase the number of liquor licenses that can be doled out in Boston.

In her formal hearing request, Pressley says it's time for Boston to stop paying for 1930s-era "Prohibition frenzy about alcohol and a power struggle between Yankee legislators and Irish-dominated local governments."

Pressley says the current high price of liquor licenses on the open market makes it next to impossible for budding dining entrepreneurs to "bring innovation to the cultural, arts, and culinary arenas."

She adds: "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."

All of Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury and Mattapan will soon be without a single bar as owners close up and sell their licenses to pricey waterfront and Back Bay establishments - with owners making up to $300,000 for their licenses. Once the Boston Licensing Board grants most of its licenses, holders are free to sell them - subject to board approval. A few licenses do have restrictions forbidding their resale.

Unfortunately for Pressley, the last person to make a similar case was state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who is now serving a 3 1/2-year federal sentence for extortion for offering to sell one of the licenses she convinced the legislature to give Boston.

Neighborhoods: 

Ad:

Do you like how UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

The entire process needs to be overhauled.

I would be a lot quicker to support restaurants and bars' applications for licenses if there were non-transferable licenses.

As it is, Joe comes up for a licensing hearing, and the question is not, "should Joe, who everyone agrees is a great neighbor who runs a business we all want to encourage, be given a license?" Instead, it's "Shall we forever grant a license to whoever occupies this space, or to whichever of Joe's creditors ends up holding the license if business goes bad for Joe?"

If there were a non-transferable license, then it would be a a no-brainer to support Joe.

up
Voting closed 0

The idea that these licenses are fungible support a market that has no business existing. The government has the responsibility to regulate the licenses, but resale to generate wealth is unsustainable and only lines the pockets of those with connections.

To me, there is very little difference between a taxi medallion and a liquor license. The government should determine whether you are competent to hold one, but they should be non-transferable and not artificially limited in supply.

up
Voting closed 0

So the ability to do business in Boston should depend on whether anon likes Joe?

up
Voting closed 0

Generally, when someone applies for a license, the neighbors weigh in. The licensing board is under no obligation to listen to the neighbors, but they often give the neighbors' testimony some weight.

up
Voting closed 0

It's been 80 years! About time.

Instead of the corrupt "license" scheme that goes on today, what we should see is a permit to serve alcohol which is not subject to any limitations on number, and requires the holder to obey the law. The fee for the permit should be large enough to pay for the police and emergency protection that is required by the city to cover the bars.

The goal is to avoid the current idiotic scenario where scarce police resources are divvied up and fought over by neighborhoods. Instead, more bars means more money for emergency services to serve those bars, which makes life better for everyone. Then we won't have police captains complaining that "they don't have enough people" to deal with things, because they can hire more officers with the money! And instead of $300,000 going to some shady liquor-license holder, a smaller annual sum goes to the city to improve things.

P.S. Dead link, adam

up
Voting closed 0

I've attached her hearing request to the original post. Sorry about that.

up
Voting closed 0

Exactly. The Puritans are dead and gone, and good riddance. There is NO reason for the current limitations to exist. How does it serve the state to prevent a restaurant from serving beer and wine?

up
Voting closed 0

Boston?! Government should not be involved only as a turnstile in private enterprise, not a road block. And favors for cronies remind me of our old friend Benito.

up
Voting closed 0

But please don't be one of those morons who says "people of color."

up
Voting closed 0

After all, you're the one I go to for all my advice on race-related matters.

up
Voting closed 0

Because I am a person of color. I'm pink, and with the summer months upon us, the pink will glow under a shade of brown created by sun exposure.

up
Voting closed 0

Boston really should make a stand about public health and ban all alcohol sales in the city. It will complement the planned outdoor and residential smoking bans and help to rid this fine city of vice and lawlessness (including dangerous behaviors such as couch dancing and moshing).

up
Voting closed 0

n/t

up
Voting closed 0

Boston should only allow alcoholic drinks and beer to be served in 2 oz. glasses to cut down on drunkeness and rowdiness. Ban all Solo cups from college campuses, too. Shut the T down, earlier -- a 6PM, nobody should be going out drinking after work anyway.

up
Voting closed 0

A few years back it was a rep. from Watertown that stopped an increase in the number of Boston liquor licenses issued. Unbelievable. Why should a suburbanite have the power to deny new restaurants a liquor license thus pretty much dooming them to failure? What the hell does this guy care if I'd like to get a glass of wine with my pasta at the newly opened local cafe?

up
Voting closed 0

When the Boston political machine declared itself a law unto itself and pretty much declared war on clean government, the state responded by taking away a lot of power from the City government. That's why so many functions (liquor licensing, review of the city budget, water supply, etc. etc.) in boston are run by state agencies.

Boston has become a lot less corrupt (and the state government has become a lot more corrupt) and it may be well past time to give some control back to the city...

up
Voting closed 0

I e-mailed Baker's office about this issue, spurred by the closing of Ups 'n Downs (a/k/a the pony room). While I have no problem with a "bucket of blood" bar closing I do not like that their permit is moving downtown. I'd like more places within walking distance to be able to sit and have dinner and/or a couple of drinks, but the current system is leading to a steady downtown migration. I suggested that short of reclaiming sovereignty from the state they could at least distribute the licenses geographically around town in a more fair system. Prohibiting the transfer of licenses is also a good idea and with fair distribution it would also help to stem the tide. To compete as an attractive area to live within proximity to downtown I see this as a big shortcoming of my neighborhood.

A rep from his office called me back and was very cordial, said they had a big discussion about this very issue days before I wrote. He acknowledged that there is a gap between Peabody Sq and Fields Corner that could really use this kind of boost and they will keep me abreast of future action. I also think they can pressure the mayor's office on this using the main streets initiative as an argument to improve neighborhoods.

I was spurred to write Baker's office by a response to an earlier comment about Ups 'n Downs I had made here. I am posting this to encourage others who share similar feelings to do the same.

up
Voting closed 0