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As city officials debate how to get more liquor licenses, celebrichef to explain why he should keep license he's not using

Todd English goes before the Boston Licensing Board next week to explain why it shouldn't strip him of the liquor license for Kingfish Hall, the Faneuil Hall Marketplace restaurant he recently closed in a nasty rent dispute with marketplace management.

By law, holders of liquor licenses - which in Boston now typically go for $300,000 or so on the open market - are not allowed to sit on them after their restaurants close.

In the past, however, the board has been reluctant to strip owners of licenses at their first hearings, and has often given owners exemptions, sometimes over several years, to either re-open their restaurants or find a buyer.

It's a process with which English is quite familiar, having had to request a number of extensions from the board over the two years his Olives in Charlestown was shut for repairs after a fire.

English's hearing is set for a Tuesday morning in the board's eighth-floor hearing room in City Hall.

The City Council yesterday voted to hold a hearing on how to convince the state legislature, which sets the number of liquor licenses in Boston, to let Boston approve more liquor-serving restaurants. Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who proposed the hearing said Boston is losing out to neighboring communities on innovative dining experiences and that Boston neighborhoods are losing restaurants to well heeled national and regional chains downtown.

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"Boston neighborhoods are losing restaurants to well heeled national and regional chains downtown."

I think that's the critical issue with liquor licenses in Boston. The only people who can really afford to open a new restaurant downtown are national chains (delfriscos, rosa mexicano, smith and wollensky), or regional restaurant groups (back bay restaurant group, glynn hospitality) who can pony up the $300k for a licenses before opening the doors....basically pricing out the small, independent restauranteur.

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All those well-connected and/or deep-pocketed license holders have a huge incentive to maintain the status quo, lest their "assets" suddenly deflate, which is why I expect the quo to maintain its status for the foreseeable future, unfortunately.

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Anyone know if you can take out a business loan against the value of a license?

Seems like you shouldn't, but I just found out you can buy and sell RI film tax credits on a open market without having to actually use them.

There's a lot of shenanigans in the tax code and in private leaning going on.

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The City really needs to take back these licenses when restaurants close and stop this absurd selling of licenses to the highest bidder. LIcenses shouldn't be a commercial asset - if the legislature insists on limiting their number, they should get handed out on a first-come basis to legitimate businesses that meet some objective criteria.

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Todd English is the boy who cried wolf at this point on liquor licenses

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If the supply is low and the demand is high they'll charge whatever the hell they want.

Not that it shouldn't change, I just don't see it happening any time soon.

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Yes, under the current licensing scheme, supply and demand are at effect, except supply is so limited that it is limiting. Demand could be 1 or 100 and it wouldn't matter because there is no supply. When supply returns (when a place closes), the biggest fish is given access first. That's the complaint.

However, we "supply" licenses as a regulation of doing that type of business. The supply could be infinite instead (or even finite but at a much higher number). Then, like many other cities in the world, demand will never outpace supply and decisions can be made on a per request basis. Are you having crime problems with 8 bars being on the same block and a ninth wants to open? Don't let them...but the fact that you only have 8 licenses shouldn't be the reason for a ninth guy wanting to open a bar 3 miles away in a part of town that hasn't had a good pub-style family restaurant in years.

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"By law, holders of liquor licenses - which in Boston now typically go for $300,000 or so on the open market - are not allowed to sit on them after their restaurants close."

What about in the case of a fire, for example TC's on Haviland?

Is there any chance that place is coming back?

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As happened with our pal Todd in Charlestown.

The way it works, a cop actually goes to the license holder's address (either as part of a routine, random inspection or because somebody at the board asks him to). He tries to go in. If he can't, he looks in the window to see if the place looks like it might be in business. Assuming not, he writes a citation, which triggers a licensing board hearing, where the license holder can explain what's going on and ask that his or her license not be taken away. Most of the time, the board's pretty sympathetic and grants the exemption, sometimes repeatedly, as in the case of English or DeLuca's on Charles Street.

As for TC's specifically, dunno.

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