Boston almost ready to uncork BYOB at small restaurants in outer neighborhoods

The Boston Licensing Board today approved regulations that will let small restaurants without liquor licenses let their customers bring in beer and wine.

But there's a catch: The board now has to design online and paper application forms for potentially eligible restaurants. Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini promised City Council President Michelle Wu she and her staff would expedite the process, which she estimated could mean restaurants could apply by springtime.

Chris Lin, owner of Seven Star Street Bistro on Belgrade Avenue in Roslindale, told the board he can't wait: His holiday season in his new dining room was dead, because nobody wants to have a holiday celebration without something to drink, and his business overall is down dramatically since he sold off the expensive beer-and-wine license he had purchased last year.

Under the regulations, only restaurants without existing liquor licenses in neighborhoods that don't have a plethora of drink-serving restaurants would be eligible for one of the new BYOB permits: All restaurants downtown and in the North End, South End, Bay Village, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Chinatown, the Seaport and the West End would continue to be banned from offering BYOB.

Diners at restaurants who get one of the $400 BYOB licenses would be allowed to bring in wine bottles no larger than 750 ml. Although the board initially proposed banning beer drinkers from bringing in beer bottles larger than 16 ounces - and no more than 64 ounces in total - the board amended that to allow growlers as well.

Harder liquors and cordials would remain banned at such restaurants. Also, patrons could not go out for more beer or wine during their visits. Restaurants would be barred from charging a corkage fee - and would have to stop letting in people with alcohol at 11 p.m. Also, no drinks with brunch: BYOB cannot start earlier than 5 p.m.

Wu said she was "very thrilled" to finally see the idea - which she and then Councilor Steve Murphy first proposed some two years ago - get this close to actually being put into effect. "I'm eager to see this become another tool for economic development in the city," she said.

But when Pulgini said nobody could get a license until the board designed and put up an online application form, Wu asked if there were any way the board could begin accepting applications on paper immediately, to help out restaurants who have been champing at the bit of all these months. "We'll get this done as soon as we can," Pulgini said.

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Seven Star sold their license

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Seven Star sold their license, all knowing how it affects the viability of a restaurant? no comprende !

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The logic behind it

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They had to pay quite a lot for the license (I don't know exactly how much, but I think beer-and-wine licenses go for $50,000 and up), so I'm thinking loans and monthly payments and using the license as security were involved, and no guarantee the value of the thing would stand up, given that the city was in the process of handing out (over three years) 75 new licenses, so Lin probably made some calculations (the dining room there is not very big) and figured it didn't make sense to hold onto it.

To his credit, he has been trying other ways to make money - there's the Astro Diner that uses his dining room for breakfast and brunch (not seven days, though), he's going to try a ramen popup.

But he's also probably the prime example of how a small restaurateur can really get screwed in Boston. When he first opened, it was primarily as a take-out place (he had, I think, one table), so he had to get permission from the zoning board (never mind that that space had been a take-out place for at least 20 years), and they kept delaying his hearing. For months. Then the state gave Boston all these new liquor licenses aimed at new restaurant operators like him, only it turned out he was two blocks outside the Roslindale "main street" district and so not eligible. And then, Wu (and Flaherty?) came up with this BYOB idea, which would be just perfect for his space and then pretty much nothing happened for month after month.

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Ramen pop up???

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Ramen pop up???

Adam I hope you'll be the responsible neighborhood reporter we know you to be and report on this very important happening. Preferably before it's over. :)

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Jan. 31

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I can't remember where I read it, but I think the Rozzie Ramen pop-up starts on January 31.

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Rozzie Ramen

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They're boilin' water all day long
Droppin' and a-boppin' and singing this song
All the little pop-ups at Walworth Street
Love to see the ramen boil 'til complete
Rozzie Ramen, tofu, meat, tweedley-dee
Rozzie Ramen
Boil Rozzie Ramen
'Cause we're all gonna ramen tonight

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This place seems like a bad

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This place seems like a bad example of an example. Holds liquor license then sells it, and hours of operation, per web site:Thurs, Sun 5-9 PM, Fri + Sat 5-10pm
Closed Mon + Tues + Wed

Doesn't seem like a major commitment to me , more like a part time dabbling. Plus a liquor licenes holder should be open most of the hours permitted on the license, to serve the public.

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Huge red flag

"We'll get this done as soon as we can," Pulgini said.

Better borrow a grain of salt or two from the rim of your BYO Margarita to take this with. If I've learned anything in my time living here, it's that there isn't a board or council in town that doesn't love red tape and bureaucracy.

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Not rocket science

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"We'll get this done as soon as we can"

City Hall has some very capable tech people. They should be able to get this online in less than a week. They could do it in 2 hours if the political will was there.

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I love my city but Jesus

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I love my city but Jesus Christ - you KNEW this was going to happen. You couldn't come up with an on-line form in the 10 months you have already been dragging your feet? FFS it's not that hard.

7 Star has done just about everything to try and get this restaurant to go well in an area that needs places like this and Boston has done nothing but thwart them.

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Just when you think you've seen it all...

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Only the restaurants in the outer neighborhoods can have this, not in any of the restaurants in Boston proper.

Why should a restaurant in one part of the city be treated differently than one in another part of the city?

Sheer stupidity, if you ask me. Either allow it at all restaurants without liquor licenses in the city, or none at all.

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Agreed

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There are people, and not just fabulously wealthy people, who live in those inner-Boston neighborhoods. Why should they be consigned to only be able to eat/drink at the expensive and/or chain restaurants that can afford a liquor license?

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Really?

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How exactly can someone not fabulously wealthy afford back bay rents?

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OT: 'Boston proper' means the opposite of how you used it

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The phrase '[City] proper' refers not to the downtown or most densely populated sections of a city, but rather all the land contained within city limits.

ie, Beacon Hill, Mattapan, Georges Island - all part of 'Boston proper'.

(To be fair, misuse is quite common).

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It's 50/50, if you ask me

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In his context, "Boston Proper" means Downtown, Beacon Hill, North and West Ends, and maybe the Back Bay and South End, with the annexed parts of the city being the remainder.

But yes, for example, Medford is not a part of Boston proper.

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Yeah I get what he meant 'in his context'

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But just because one could figure it out doesn't mean that the phrase was used accurately. The canonical meaning of '[City] proper' is what I described. It's a term often found in formal/official domains.

Fwiw, I think 'central Boston' is probably clear and closest to the mark.

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Just because some people misuse something does not make it right

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Sorry, language can shift over time, sure. But also - people can say stuff wrong sometimes. Eg, people say 'I could care less' when they mean they couldn't care less. Sounds ok in their ears - but it's wrong.

This is an example of the latter. "[City] proper" is a term of art in city planning and government, not just in the US, but across the world.

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Medford?

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Random example, Medford doesn't even border Boston! But valid point, i'm just bustin on you. Quincy, Somerville, Cambridge, Revere, Everett, Winthrop, Watertown, Brookline, Newton, Dedham, Canton and Milton all share a border with Boston.

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Thanks to Wu & Council, but...

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Nice to see the city council doing this. But boy do we live in an over-regulated backwater of a place some days. You'd think it was the end of the world in progress that people can drink wine with their dinner.

And God forbid anyone bring 751ML.

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That's why we must contunue to fight!

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No more life long townies in any position of government (read: vote against marty).

we need new, outside blood to take boston to the next level. people that have lived and worked in world class cities.

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the extra B is for BYOBB

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A $400 license to allow drinking without a license? And months of delay to create the bureaucracy?

Why didn't they just allow it?

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This.

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I'm sure I'm one of many uhubbers who thought of a restaurant where we'd like to BYOB, and then read the details, and thought, "Not gonna happen." My restaurant of choice is Asahi in Brighton Center, a very very small sushi bar with a practically nonexistent menu of non-sushi items, no high-design interior, no "small plates", no faux-Zen decor and theming, nothing much but (IMO) the best quality fish in Boston. Of course, it has no liquor license -- "Too much trouble," the owner says. What are the odds he's going to dance around filling out forms and paying money for this, even assuming they'd let him have one, surrounded as he is by Irish bars that serve food?

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Where is the research to back up these regulations?

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(I'm usually very optimistic and glass half full, but not on this one)
We just went from a highly regulated Puritan State to...well more of the same. Kudos for figuring this out....which took 2 years and still has no application in place. Where did the arbitrary limits even come from? Can one person go in and finish 750ml of wine but one person can't go in and have one 4oz glass of a cordial? No Brunch? What is the reasoning of 5pm and where did that time of day come from? Is 4pm really bad and 6pm is extra safe? Was there extensive research done over the last two years that proves it is safer and more responsible to make sure the time starts after 5pm? OR ARE YOU JUST MAKING THIS UP WITH UNQUALIFIED INDIVIDUALS AND NO STATISTICAL REASONING, because it seems like it! These don't make much sense, but neither does the liquor license process in this state. I have no horse in this race, but it upsets me to see the city act very small and take action like this. This city is so afraid of alcohol and lets a couple of unqualified individuals get in a room, drag their feet to not deal with it and ultimately make up regulations without proper research and justification.

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Honest Question

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Why is this city so afraid of alcohol?

I have some theories but would like to hear what other people think.

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Latent anti-irish sentiment

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Latent anti-irish sentiment combined with an overly catholic culture and a dash of "nothing good happens after 10 pm"

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THAT was a good response -

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THAT was a good response - and probably all true! Also add the large student population and (founded) concerns about cheap(er) liquor overindulgence.

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The city is a complete

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The city is a complete shitshow and the regulations are pretty ridiculous, but, to be mildly fair to them, they've been put in a shitty position by the state. While every other city in the commonwealth gets to allocate a number of liquor licenses based on population, Boston gets a disproportionally small number and has to go begging to the legislature every time they want a few more to hand out. It's created this absurd secondary market where people are mortgaging their liquor licenses so now the lawmakers won't fix the issue cuz it means a few restaurantaurs will go bankrupt in the process, plus the legislature just has a general hateboner to stroke, so we're left in this really stupid gray area where sane and reasonable liquor regulations are impossible.

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So this means I also can't

So this means I also can't bring in my: 2L box of wine, saving money and the environment, as well as allowing me to drink LESS than a full bottle of wine?
Or 6*12 oz of beer, i.e. the rare and little-understood "6-pack"?

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