The Boston Licensing Board voted today to let Kazuhiro Aotani, who operates Boston Ramen Co. in Harvard Square, open a new ramen outlet called Sushi by Bosso Ramen Tavern at 163 Newbury St. in the Back Bay.
The new restaurant, with planned hours of 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., will take over the beer-and-wine license formerly owned and used at the location by Double Zero, a vegan pizza place that went bankrupt.
Aotani obtained the license from - and agreed to pledge it back to - building owner Panos Demeter.
After the pizza place's owner, Plant-Based Pizza Boston, went into Chapter 7 bankruptcy earlier this year, Demeter offered to buy the license for $125,000, according to documents filed in US Bankruptcy Court in Boston. Plant-Based Pizza listed Demeter as its largest creditor, with $905,000 in unpaid rent.
The trustee in the case recommended a judge approve the sale rather than putting the license up for auction, saying he had consulted with a local auctioneer who said the price was in line with what beer-and-wine - rather than all-alcohol - licenses in Boston go for these days, and that a direct sale would save the costs of an auction.
But then UrbanMeritrage, which also owns property along Newbury Street, heard about the license and put in its own bid - for $175,000 - records show.
On Sept. 6, the judge in the case held a hearing to decide the matter. Demeter and an UrbanMeritage executive wrote down their final offers on pieces of lined paper. A court clerk stamped both offers at 10:49 a.m. The offers were put in sealed envelopes and then the judge opened them - and awarded the license to Demeter, who bid $251,000, while UrbanMeritage only offered $231,000.
On Monday, Mayor Wu and other city officials testified at the State House on the city's latest home-rule petition seeking more liquor licenses - 250 that would be restricted to use in certain outer neighborhoods, where new restaurant owners are finding it increasingly difficult to buy one on the open market, when beer-and-wine licenses can go for $251,000 and all-alcohol licenses, which allow for the sale of hard liquor, are now approaching $600,000.
Boston has been trying for new liquor licenses for years. But aside from five new licenses approved in 2022, specifically for the Bolling Building in Roxbury and the Strand Theater in Dorchester, the state legislature has refused to give Boston more.