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Restaurants in Roslindale, JP, Charlestown, East Boston, Dorchester and Downtown Crossing get liquor licenses

The Boston Licensing Board today granted liquor licenses to restaurants across the city it determined met a "public need" - and rejected requests from others they ruled did not.

The board rejected all nine requests from the North End, Chinatown and the South Boston waterfront for full liquor licenses, ruling the neighborhoods already have more than enough places where somebody can get a drink. Also failing to make the cut: A proposed Wahlburgers and cineplex in an expanded South Bay mall and a restaurant in the New Balance development in Brighton.

The board had five unrestricted liquor licenses, which can be borrowed against and re-sold, and 20 neighborhood-specific licenses, which can only be used in certain neighborhoods that aren't near the waterfront and which have to be given back when the holder closes shop, to dole out this year - the last of a total of 75 new licenses the state legislature gave Boston in 2014.

The licenses approved today also have to be approved by the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

In Roslindale, board members agreed that Chris Douglass's Third Rail, now being built in the old substation at Washington Street and Cummins Highway met the "public need" for a full liquor license both because of strong public support and because it would spur economic development, in part through re-use of a dilapidated hulk that had sat unused since 1971.

In Jamaica Plain, the Haven in Hyde Square proved a public need through both public support and the fact that it's the only Scottish restaurant in the state.

Downtown, board members could not say enough good things about plans by Christopher Coombs and Brian Piccini to turn the shuttered Mantra nightclub on Temple Place into their second Boston Chops steakhouse.

Also gaining a license: Anoushella, a proposed Middle Eastern restaurant at 35 W. Newton St. in the South End, which the board said would revitalize a long neglected corner and provide meals that normal people can afford; Mida, a proposed Italian restaurant at 782 Tremont St. on the Roxbury/South End line - which gained Roxbury's first full-service liquor license in years; Renegades Pub at 1004 Bennington St. in East Boston, which board members said would be a great reuse of a long closed space; and Victoria's Diner on Massachusetts Avenue in Newmarket Square, which was seeking to upgrade from its beer-and-wine license.

The board also granted a license to the owners of Paolo's on Main Street in Charlestown so they can expand and create a new bistro called Monument. Board members cited the paucity of restaurants in Charlestown and said part of the public need was also to help the restaurant fend off stiff competition from restaurants across the border in Somerville. "They need all the help they can get," board member Liam Curran said.

And the owners of the Lower Mills Tavern in Dorchester got a beer and wine license fot the taqueria, named Taqueria, they want to open near the tavern on Dorchester Avenue. Board members said the public need was shown by the fact that residents approached the tavern owners with the idea of them opening a second place. In Adams Corner, the board approved a beer and wine license for Molinari's, which serves Italian food without the pizza, citing strong support from the neighborhood. The board used similar logic to approve a liquor license for Kriola, on Hancock Street in Uphams Corner. Also, "It's one of the few Cape Verdean restaurants in the city and also the only one in that area," board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini said.

Also, Related Beal won a liquor license for the 241-seat restaurant it's planning for a hotel now under construction on Beverly Street. Board members cited the fact that revenue from the restaurant is key to financing the affordable apartments going up at the same time. Another restaurant in a building slated for New Street in East Boston also won a license, in part because it would serve a new apartment building and help spur development along the East Boston waterfront, in part because the restaurant operator says he would start a water ferry, initially to Charlestown but possibly eventually to other neighborhoods.

In contrast, the board rejected a request from New Balance for a liquor license for a restaurant in its development off Guest Street because, board members said, so much money is already flowing into that area that a restaurant there would not spur any further economic development.

The board rejected a request for a liquor license for a Wahlburgers proposed in the South Bay expansion, saying the restaurant wouldn't open, at the earliest, for another year. Similarly, the board rejected a request from AMC, which is planning a cineplex there.

Also turned down: Sweet Rice in Charlestown, which the board noted had only been open for about five months and which does much of its business in takeout, Retreat, a proposed restaurant on Sumner Street in Jeffreys Point, East Boston; and Kamakura, a proposed Japanese place on State Street, near all the existing restaurants of Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The board also rejected a request from Cabana Grill on Bennington Street in East Boston, in part because of concerns from Boston Police over past issues at that address.

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Comments

What would I do without you telling me what's best for me.

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Seems like they helped the little guy and told the bigger guys (New Balance, The Wahlbergs and AMC) to go buy their own license in the market.

I agree that having to be granted a hard-to-come-by permit for a pizzeria to sell bottles of beer is just stupid, but that's the law until the state decides to give that right back to the city.

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If you want to blame somebody, blame the state legislature, which still doesn't trust Boston to figure out what's best for itself. The legislature gave Boston 25 licenses this year. The board got more applications than it had licenses (at least for the 5 full licenses). Short of Boston seceding from the rest of the state, how would you have handled this differently?

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First five in the door?
Random lottery from all submitted entries?
Silent auction so the city earns the same value that the market assigns them afterwards?

There are actually a lot of ways to do it without allowing for favoritism, corruption, or requiring board members to be real estate/economic development/patron behavioralists/criminal activity prognosticators.

PS - I'm not suggesting all the listed ways up top don't have their own requisite issues (like the auction favors only the biggest pockets). I'm just saying that the current method of allowing the board to pick and choose has a pretty big slate of issues that could be tampered by other methods which fewer issues. (Again for example, the auction would prevent any of this week's "winners" from immediately selling their license for a one-time huge profit...I mean they've lived this long without a full license, right?) There's no reason to think the current method is the best one.

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Just give up on this ridiculous notion of a "public need" for a restaurant/bar (bars aren't even allowed licenses anymore, heaven forbid people want to drink without eating), and let the free market decide if if there's a need.

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Are you ready to fight to get the legislature to make changes like that.

I'm not disagreeing with what you're saying, just that it's a bit unfair to blame the board for things it has no control over (such as the "public need" thing).

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Serious question: Is the "public need" requirement something that's handed down by the state, or was it how the board decided to handle applications?

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I was mocking the process, which I think is absurd.

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"Public Need" is the standard set by state law that Licensing Boards must determine per statute - M.G.L. c. 138, s. 23:

The provisions for the issue of licenses and permits hereunder imply no intention to create rights generally for persons to engage or continue in the transaction of the business authorized by the licenses or permits respectively, but are enacted with a view only to serve the public need and in such a manner as to protect the common good and, to that end, to provide, in the opinion of the licensing authorities, an adequate number of places at which the public may obtain, in the manner and for the kind of use indicated, the different sorts of beverages for the sale of which provision is made.

There is case law on what "public need" means, basically the factors are whether the public wants a particular location and the suitability of said location. It's not literally about how much alcohol the public may or may not actually need. The Licensing Board did its job here, whether the law itself is overly burdensome or not.

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Silent auction so the city earns the same value that the market assigns them afterwards?

Yup. One of the most maddening things is that, between now and when we finally get rid of this insane artificial scarcity, the city could be collecting $500,000 for each license it issues, instead of giving it away for free to some lucky connected winner, who is then free to sell it for $500,000.

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How about just let businesses that want to sell alcohol do it! No limits! Every gas station and corner sandwich shop in Virginia has beers in the cooler and it's no big deal. The sky doesn't fall.

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The south has a ton of dry counties and plenty of very strict alcohol laws(MS and AL were the last two states to make homebrewing legal just 3 years ago).

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It does seem like anyone and their mother can sell beer and wine. But want to sell booze? You can if and only if you're the government. Same thing goes in Alabama and North Carolina.

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These guys are the bee's knees. The bartenders are really creative at mixing cocktails with only the cordials license; I'm psyched to see what they can do with a full license. I'm also confident that this will immediately become Boston's premier whisky-with-no-e bar.

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As many posters have said already, the owner is a stand-up guy and it's a lovely place. They also do the best Burns supper around--can't wait.

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And they serve up one of the best I've ever had. Highly recommended. Great spot. I actually never realized they didn't have a full license.

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but the argument that they 'need' a liquor license as the only Scottish restaurant is a perfect example of how deeply dumb the system is.

If I open the state's only Maori bar, do I get dibs on the next license?

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But I don't think he got it because he's Scottish. My less cynical side says that having a long history in the neighborhood, no serious violations or neighborhood complaints, and a strong showing of neighborhood support are all in favor.

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But Adam specifically stated that it being the only Scottish restaurant around as a point in its favor which is just so dumb. I don't want this kind of gate keeping.

Again, great they got it, sounds like a model local business, but the process is terrible.

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Were these the unrestricted licenses, or were they all the neighborhood-specific licenses that can't be resold?

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North End and Chinatown are saturated with places to get a drink, but Temple Place is not? Stoddard's, 49 Social, jm Curley, and Gordon's (liquor store) are all within 50 yards of the proposed 2nd Boston Chops that was awarded a license.

If the board wants to justify denying public need based on saturation in one location, they can't justify granting public need in a similarly saturated location.

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If it is possible to waste a liquor license, the North End certainly wastes the most. Its almost impossible to get a decent cocktail or beer in the entire neighborhood. Places there just don't even try, unlike Stoddards and jm Curley.

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full licenses. Parla actually does a good job of making cocktails within that spirits-free straitjacket. Prezza is about the only place I trust for a proper cocktail, and it doesn't approach the heights of our better craft cocktail bars. At the rest that can serve spirits, I stick to two-part highballs and gin-and-juice type drinks. It is a cocktail desert.

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At least, to me. I don't generally venture out to the North End with booze on my mind unless it's grappa, and since Cafe Vittoria's prices shot up to $17+ a pour, Cafe Dello Sport it is.

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Curious how New York City does this - they seem to have bars and restaurants everywhere....went to their website and couldn't figure out if the number is limited there. Since alcohol sales accounts for a large percentage of a restaurants' business it would be helpful if the limit for licenses would get lifted.

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Did the licensing board also happen to make any suggestions to Chris Coombs and Brian Piccini on how to make their Boston Chops food not be so salty and disgusting?

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The reasoning given for New Balance not getting one is absurd though. "So much money is already flowing into that area that a restaurant there would not spur any further economic development." What does that even mean? And why is already having businesses in the area and moving to an area a reason not to have a restaurant? In fact, there is a desperate need for more restaurants on Guest St. There's thousands of people who work right there and the Stockyard is the only thing within walking distance.

Mass liquor licensing laws need to be scrapped at the state level and it's so obvious to everyone other than those with the power to change the laws.

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One of the goals of the legislation that gave Boston 75 new liquor licenses in 2014 was to use them to encourage economic development by encouraging restaurants in areas that might need some help - such as Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury and the city's "Main Street" districts.

So the board approved a license for a new restaurant on the East Boston waterfront because the city's been trying since the 1990s to redevelop that area and it's just now coming together, and the presence of a sit-down restaurant will help spur others to invest in the area.

In contrast, the board said, New Balance is pouring vast sums of money into its development, and that's going to continue whether or not the board grants a license to its restaurant (left unsaid is that New Balance can still get a license for this restaurant - only now it's going to cost $300,000 or so upfront on the open market).

All of this would, of course, be moot if Boston got to decide on its own how many liquor licenses it can give out. But the legislature is dominated by people, who clearly enjoy continuing to tell Boston how to run its own affairs, so the board has to make decisions based on the fact it has more applicants than it has licenses.

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I have a different perspective on this. I don’t think that the complaint that the rest of the state is primarily responsible for withholding licenses from Boston applies anymore. There are certain Boston legislators (and other elected officials) who are very committed to making sure that licenses owned by restaurant owners in their districts hold their value. The rest of the legislature follows their lead. (“I’ll support what you want in Boston if you support what I want in Springfield.”) Certain politicians have also benefitted from donations made by restaurant owners applying for one of the “freebies.” Some restaurant owners routinely host political fund-raisers. They also make sure that all of their extended family members and their employees make donations. It’s all there (well, most of it) in the campaign fund disclosures. It is a corrupt system which benefits only politicians and wealthy restaurant owners. The small operators who own only one establishment don’t really get a fair shake. But to say that this system is imposed on us by outside forces lets our local politicians off the hook. Anyone who thinks that the previous licensing board members appointed by Deval Patrick were not hand-picked by Tom Menino is naive.

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Sounds like the solution would be a ballot initiative, then, if the legislature cannot be trusted to work in the peoples' best interests

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