It's That Time of Year Again: Renewal Season Is Upon Us

Calling all restaurant, bar, hotel, tavern, pub, club and package store owners:

By now, you should have received your 2018 renewal package from your local licensing authority (LLA) regarding your alcohol beverages license(s).  Packets must be fully completed pursuant to Massachusetts G.L. Ch. 138 § 16A by Thursday November 30, 2017 at 5:00PM. Outside of Boston, this deadline may be earlier, so be sure to read your paperwork carefully for all applicable deadlines.

I always recommend that my clients get a head start on this process; the sooner you file, the better, and your LLA will thank you for it. To avoid any issues or missing documentation to your package, don't wait until the last minute!

For those of you located in the initial pilot towns for e-licensing, please note that this year, all renewals will be done the old fashioned way: back to paper applications. 

Lastly, it is IMPORTANT TO NOTE for Boston Licensees that this year, the Licensing Board for the City of Boston and the Mayor’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing (MOCAL) will only be accepting up to date Building Inspection Certificates from the Inspectional Services Department (ISD); no proof of payment will be accepted as in years' past.

Good luck, and cheers to a prosperous 2018.

 

 

 

Here we go again...152 New Licenses May be Coming to Boston as soon as September

On Thursday, June 22nd, 2017 at 2:30pm, the Government Operations Committee of the Boston City Council will hold a public hearing regarding a proposal to advance a home rule petition regarding liquor licenses to the state legislature.

The proposal as filed would create a total of 152 new non-transferable, on-premises liquor licenses for the City of Boston. Similar to the special legislation filed and passed in 2014, the licenses would be available for issuance over the course of 3 years, or through 2019.

So what's potentially on the table?

  • 105 Neighborhood Restricted Licenses (3 all alcohol licenses per year; 2 beer and wine per year) in Dorchester, Mattapan, Mission Hill, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain and Roxbury; 
  • 30 City-wide Licenses (7 all alcohol licenses per year; 3 beer & wine licenses per year). Back Bay, North End and Beacon Hill can't snag more than 3 each year;
  • 15 Main Streets Districts Licenses (3 all alcohol licenses per year; 2 beer and wine licenses per year); and
  • Boston Center for the Arts & Lawn on D are proposed to score one all-alc license each. 

This proposal would also allow any real estate development project with a total combined gross floor area of 500,000 sf or more to apply for a non-transferable "umbrella license", where additional licensees under the "qualifying project" could be added. 

The proposal, sponsored by Councilor Ayanna Pressley, can be read in full here

Stay tuned for more details after Thursday....

Remember to Renew Your Alcoholic Beverages License by Nov. 30th!

It is that time of year again! All restaurant, bar, hotel, tavern, pub, and club owners should be pulling together their renewal forms for their local licensing authorities. The deadline of November 30th is rapidly approaching. This year, the renewal has a twist for a few pilot towns, where renewals are required to be processed through the ABCC’s eLicensing portal. This means that license holders in Boston, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Dedham, Lawrence, New Bedford, Salem, and Somerville will be renewing their licenses for the first time online (in addition to paper requirements from your local licensing authority). The portal requires registration and the linking of current licenses, so be sure to give yourself some extra time if you will be participating in this new process, or let us know if you need some help navigating the new system.

In order to keep your license active, make sure to satisfy all of the renewal process requirements pursuant to Massachusetts G.L. Ch. 138 § 16A by Wednesday November 30, 2016 at 5:00 PM. You should have received a renewal package from your local licensing authority a few weeks ago, detailing the step by step process for renewals. Please note that outside of Boston, some local licensing authorities set earlier deadlines for submission of the renewal paperwork. Also note, for the cities in the pilot program mentioned above, the local licensing authorities will only be accepting applications through the eLisensing portal. If you are a license holder in one of the pilot towns you should have received information from the ABCC on how to set up an account and link your license(s) to it. Failure to submit the required renewal forms and supporting documentation will result in 1) the expiration of your licenses as soon as the ball drops in Times Square at midnight, and 2) having to start from scratch to apply for a new license.

One would hope that the renewal rush will be lessened with the new eLicensing program. However, in the towns that are not renewing online, try to get there a few days early to avoid lines and delays. Early is always better in this instance, as it is important to make sure that the Board does not require further documentation. 

Third Round of Boston's New Neighborhood Restricted & Unrestricted Licenses: Where They've Gone So Far

Back in February, I shared with you where the 10 new unrestricted liquor licenses went, along with the location of the 40 restricted neighborhood alcohol licenses granted since the State Legislature had amended the Economic Development Bill originally passed in August 2014.  This bill allowed the City of Boston to issue 75 new liquor licenses over the course of 3 years (starting in 2014, 25 each year).  As you may recall, the restricted neighborhood licenses are limited to 7 neighborhoods (Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill and Roxbury), plus the city’s  Main Streets Districts.

Pursuant to the legislation, one last round of 25 licenses became available as of September 1, 2016, including 20 neighborhood restricted licenses (15 all-alcohol and 5 beer & wine) and 5 unrestricted all-alcohol licenses.

As of today’s date and out of the last round of 25, 14 neighborhood restricted and 3 unrestricted licenses have been granted by the Boston Licensing Board. Similar to the first two rounds, Dorchester has benefited most from the neighborhood restricted licenses. This year, however, we are seeing Roxbury and East Boston move up on the list along with the Main Streets Districts. So far, no licenses have been granted in Mission Hill, Hyde Park, or Mattapan in this cycle.

I have updated the map since the 2015 cycle, showing the locations of all the businesses that have benefited from the 2014 legislation. Click HERE  for a map of all of the Neighborhood Restricted Licenses (red markers) and Unrestricted Licenses (green markers) granted over the past three years. Additionally, please note the 2 restricted licenses (blue markers) granted to hotels per the Acts of 2006 amidst the granting of the 2014 legislative licenses.* 

Below is a tally showing how the licenses have panned out over Boston’s neighborhoods since the passing of the 2014 legislation meant to spur economic development (6 restricted and 2 unrestricted licenses remain as of today's date):  

Dorchester: 19
Main Streets: 12
Roxbury: 8
East Boston: 6
Jamaica Plain: 5
Mission Hill: 2
Hyde Park: 2
Mattapan: 0
Unrestricted: 13 - spread across Seaport, North End, Fort Point, Back Bay, South End, Beacon Hill, West Roxbury, West End, Charlestown and Downtown Crossing.

Below is a tally of the 17 licenses that have so far been granted as part of the 2016 cycle:

Dorchester (5 total)
All Alcohol (1): Taqueria
Beer & Wine (4): Kriola Bar & Restaurant, Molinaris, Pollo Centro, Anh Hong Restaurant

Main Streets Districts (3 total)
West Roxbury: Himalayan Bistro (All Alcohol)
Roslindale: Third Rail (All Alcohol)
South End: Anoushella (Beer & Wine)

Roxbury (3 total) 
All Alcohol: Mida, Residence Inn by Marriott, Victoria’s Diner (Upgrade from Beer & Wine)

East Boston (2 total) 
All Alcohol: Renegades Pub, New Street Restaurant

Jamaica Plain (1 total) 
All Alcohol: The Haven

UNRESTRICTED: Downtown Crossing - All Alcohol: Boston ChopsCharlestown - All Alcohol: Monument, and West End - All Alcohol: Hotel Indigo Boston

 

 

*[2 Innholder All-Alcohol licenses granted per the 2006 Acts of ch. 383: AC Hotel by Marriott South End and Beverly Street Hotel]

 

 

Boston's Neighborhood Restricted Liquor Licenses: Where They Went

Last week, I shared with you where the 10 new unrestricted liquor licenses went as a result of the amended Economic Development Bill originally passed in August 2014, which allowed the City of Boston to issue 75 new liquor licenses over the next 3 years (starting in 2014, 25 each year).

This week, we're taking a look at where all the restricted neighborhood alcohol licenses have gone since the new legislation passed in 2014. As a reminder, these licenses are limited to 7 neighborhoods: Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill, Roxbury and Main Streets Districts as designated by the Boston Redevelopment Authority ("BRA"). To date, all 40 restricted licenses have been issued, which means the last 20 available under this particular legislation (and the last 5 unrestricted licenses) won't be available until September 1, 2016.  

In August of 2015, we mapped out the location of the first 20 licenses issued under the legislation. Not surprisingly, Dorchester and Main Streets businesses snagged most of them, with East Boston trailing in third.  As of August 2015, no applications had been received for Mission Hill or Mattapan.  Disappointingly, this remains true for Mattapan. However, 2 businesses in Mission Hill have since joined the growing list of Boston businesses now able to serve your favorite cocktail, craft beer or glass of wine.  

In similar fashion to the first round of licenses, Dorchester and the Main Streets Districts have continued to benefit from the creation of the new, restricted licenses. Check out the map and corresponding lists below for a neighborhood breakdown of the newest licensees. 

Click HERE for a map of Neighborhood Restricted Licenses issued in the 2014 & 2015 cycles.

Dorchester (14 total)

All-Alcohol (9):  Boston Bowl, Pho Le Restaurant, Sweetlife Cafe & Bakery, Homestead Bakery & Cafe, K O'Brien's Kitchen & Tavern, Lower Mills Tavern, Levi's Restaurant & Lounge, & Sam Maverick's, & Will E. Reed Auditorium (General On-Premise All-Alcohol)

Beer & Wine (3):  Bred, Bon Appetit Restaurant, & Pho So 1 Boston

Beer, Wine & Cordials (2): Sea Breeze Mexican Grill & Dot 2 DotCafe

Main Streets Districts (9 total)

Chinatown: Townsman, Jaho Coffee & Wine Bar, & Great Taste Bakery & Restaurant

Roslindale: Derna's

South End: Estragon & Seiyo Sushi

Allston/Brighton: The Puritan & @ Union (Beer & Wine)

West Roxbury: Porter Cafe

Roxbury (5 total)  

All-Alcohol (3):  Suya Joint, Dona Habana

Beer & Wine (3): Dudley Dough, Tasty Burger, & Dudley Cafe & Convenience

East Boston (4 total) 

All-Alcohol: Maverick Marketplace & Cunard Tavern

Beer, Wine & Cordials: East Boston Kitchen & Oliveira's Steak House

Jamaica Plain (4) 

All-Alcohol: Tres Gatos, Grassfed, Brassica Kitchen + Cafe, & The Frogmore

Mission Hill (2)

All-Alcohol: The Penguin & 1508 Tremont St (d/b/a TBA)

Hyde Park (2)

All-Alcohol: Antonio's Bacaro & Ricon Caribeno Restaurant

Mattapan (0)

10 Lucky Recipients of the New Liquor Licenses in Boston: Where They Went

In early January 2016, we learned that the State Legislature had amended the Economic Development Bill originally passed in August 2014, which allowed the City of Boston to issue 75 new liquor licenses over the next 3 years (starting in 2014, 25 each year).

60 of these licenses (20 each year) were/are reserved for "restricted" neighborhoods: Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill, Roxbury and Main Street Districts as designated by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (“BRA”). See The Department of Neighborhood Development's map of Main Streets Districts here.  Each of these licenses, once issued, cannot be transferred to a different neighborhood or area in which it was originally issued and cannot be transferred to any other person or entity. 

The remaining 15 licenses (or 5 each year) were originally intended to be full-value, unrestricted all alcoholic beverage licenses; however, those licenses had not previously been issued in the 2014 and 2015 cycles due to inconsistencies in the legislation which still needed to be addressed.

Recognizing the inconsistency in the language of the law, the legislature ultimately revisited and amended the law in late 2015, effectually "releasing" the 10 full-value, unrestricted all-alcoholic beverages licenses that were originally intended to have been released in 2014 and 2015.

So began the mad dash to the Licensing Board for the City of Boston as word quickly traveled during the first few days of the new year.  Dozens of businesses, both existing and new, lined up at a chance to get a hold of one of these $400,000 assets for free.

As many of you know, the Licensing Board holds transactional hearings on Wednesday mornings. Over several weeks, the Board heard many applicants make their case for "public need" (a legal standard I'll explain in an upcoming post).  Ultimately, the Board approved the last of the 10 lucky applicants yesterday.  Here's where they went:

Seaport:

Scorpion Bar & The Grand by Big Night Entertainment Group: Set to open in 2017, this will be a 20,000sf Mexican restaurant, nightclub and event space in the new Seaport Square development spanning 3 floors.

Fort Point:

Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar: second location from the guys who brought Lolita to Dartmouth St., and most recently Yvonne's to the old Locke-Ober space in Downtown Crossing.

Back Bay:

Earl's Kitchen + Bar. Slated to open in the Prudential Center in late 2016, Earl's is a Canadian company which has been setting up shop in the US over the past few years. You may be familiar with their only other MA location at Assembly Row in Somerville.

Piattini.  Open since 2001, a Newbury St. restaurant with an existing beer & wine license.

South End:

Fuji @ Ink Block - a Japanese inspired restaurant with sister locations throughout Boston

North End:

Cucina Italiana

Mare

Monica's

all existing Italian restaurants with previous beer & wine licenses.

Beacon Hill:

Antonio's: located on Cambridge St. for the past 20 years, an Italian restaurant with an existing beer & wine license.

West Roxbury:

Al-Wadi - an existing Lebanese restaurant located on VFW Parkway, and previous holder of a beer & wine license.

 

Mayor Walsh's Late Night Task Force is Underway

As released by the Massachusetts Restaurant Association last night, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh continues to work towards improvements in the current rules and regulations surrounding the city's late night dining and entertainment options.

Boston's Late Night Task Force, assembled early on in Mayor Walsh's term, has been focusing its efforts on extended closing hours and streamlined city processes, simplifying the way business is done in Boston. A sampling of the most recent recommendations passed on by the Task Force are as follows:

  • Later closing hours within designated downtown areas (with Licensing Board hearing);
  • Allowance of patio and deck alcoholic beverages without the requirement to serve food;
  • Allow operators citywide with 10pm & 11pm closing hours to stay open until midnight;
  • Inspectional Services automatically schedules inspections once operators renew their Certificates of Inspections; 
  • Allowance of later closing hours for live entertainment and music played on patios (but shhh...you still can't disturb your neighbors)

For more comments from around the Boston restaurant industry, read this morning's Boston Globe article.

What say you? Are we moving in the right direction? What other bullet list items do you think would be beneficial to streamlining the city's processes?

The Clock Is Ticking For That Alcohol License Renewal Deadline

Calling all restaurant, bar, hotel, tavern, pub & club owners.... you have approximately T-minus 7  days to get those renewal forms in to your local licensing authorities!  

If you are planning to keep your alcohol license active through the New Year, make sure to satisfy all renewal process requirements pursuant to Massachusetts G.L. Ch. 138 § 16A no later than Monday, November 30, 2015 at 5:00 p.m.  You should have received a renewal package from your local licensing authority a few weeks ago, detailing the step by step process for renewals.  If your business is located outside of Boston, be sure to check the deadline for renewal submission, as some licensing authorities require earlier submissions (e.g., the Town of Watertown's deadline is TODAY).  Failure to submit the required renewal forms and supporting documentation will result in 1) the expiration of your license as soon as the ball drops in Times Square at midnight (i.e., not a good way to start off 2016), and 2) having to start from scratch and apply for a new license.  I'm all into New Year's resolutions and getting things off to a fresh start, but this is not the kind of clean slate I have in mind for my clients. 

Want to beat the renewal rush? Get there no later than Wednesday to avoid lines and delays, as well as provide yourself a cushion should the Board require further documentation not already included in your submission.

 

Will Boston Drink To That?

BYOB Policy Change Could Benefit Retail Economy

as seen on Banker & Tradesman, October 25, 2015

On a Friday night in Boston, we can’t just walk into the Capital Grille with a six-pack of the latest rage in craft beer or a bottle of bubbly we’ve been waiting to pop since New Year’s Eve. Massachusetts law prevents dining patrons from bringing any alcohol into an establishment that holds a license to serve alcohol.

Even still, unlicensed establishments are at the mercy of local officials: every municipality is free to prohibit, allow or license the practice known as “bring your own bottle” (BYOB). Boston has long prohibited the practice; however, the tides are changing, and so too may the option for Boston diners to BYOB.

Let’s face it: the ability to sell and serve alcohol at full-service dining establishments increases frequency of visitors and the chances that patrons stay a little longer and return time and time again. However, with all-alcoholic beverage licenses costing as much as $400,000 in Boston, a BYOB option could theoretically help those first-time restaurant owners and young entrepreneurial chefs focus on the food while they attempt to earn their place in the ever-evolving restaurant industry.

This past winter, Boston City Councilors At-Large Michelle Wu and Stephen Murphy proposed an amendment to the City of Boston Code to allow patrons to bring their own alcoholic beverages into dining establishments that lack an alcoholic beverages license. The proposal was presented in the spirit of economic development, similar to the economic growth bill of 2014 creating new, albeit restricted liquor licenses for the city. Of course, the allowance of BYOB in Boston restaurants would not come without regulation. How it should be regulated is up for debate, particularly out of fairness to those businesses that have otherwise spent a small fortune for the privilege to serve alcohol.

Location As A Starting Point

After the debates of last year’s bill in creating the new unrestricted licenses, one obvious criteria would be the imposition of geographic restrictions. Such restrictions are an appropriate starting point in balancing current investments with the need for economic stimulation in other neighborhoods. The notion of BYOB permits may be better received if prohibited from setting up shop in the downtown area, Back Bay and North End, which tend to be the first neighborhoods used as examples of areas amply saturated with liquor licenses. The city might also consider imposing restrictions on the number of seats allowed inside a BYOB establishment (or, no bar seating, for example) or limitations on the types of alcohol permitted for consumption (i.e. beer and wine only).

Some commonwealth locales, such as Mansfield and nearby Brookline, issue BYOB permits to unlicensed establishments for free; however, they elect to include certain caveats, such as mandatory alcohol server training programs, ID checking, food order requirements and corkage fee rules. Just last month, the Watertown Town Council voted 6-3 to approve a BYOB ordinance, which will go into effect April 1, 2016. The reoccurring issues throughout these discussions focused around cost of the permits as well as enforcement of BYOB regulations.

Boston is not the first to consider BYOB, and can learn from other U.S. cities that have successfully paved the way for their citizens to BYOB on their next anniversary dinner. According to wine writer Roger Morris, “Pennsylvania restaurants have turned a major negative – limited liquor licenses, and expensive ones at that – into a marketing positive” using BYOB. Philadelphia has become the BYOB mecca with over 200 BYOB establishments. Pennsylvania, unlike Massachusetts, allows BYOB in licensed or unlicensed restaurants.

Over the past decade, the city of Boston not only looks, but feels like it has undergone a major facelift. Few can argue the results – new and vibrant neighborhoods and businesses have been established, development opportunity has flourished, and we’ve earned our spot on the map as a hub for innovation and dare we say … fun? (Very responsible, adult fun, of course.)

Allowing for thoughtfully regulated BYOB would benefit the surrounding neighborhoods, provide more options for great food, and put more lights and eyes on our streets. If the city finally decides to raise its glass in a toast to BYOB, it might be the perfect occasion for that bottle of bubbly you’ve been saving since last New Year’s Eve.

Watertown to Allow BYOB in 2016

The City of Watertown became the latest municipality to green-light the bring your own bottle (“BYOB” ) concept. Permits will be made available to unlicensed, full-service dining establishments starting in April 2016.

The initial BYOB proposal was made over a year before last month’s vote to allow BYOB in Watertown. See http://watertown.wickedlocal.com/article/20140908/News/140907282

Ultimately, the Council approved BYOB with a $1,000 annual fee, while limiting the permit to full-service indoor dining establishments. A patron wishing to participate in BYOB must order food, and may only consume beer and wine on the premises.  Further, in accordance with public safety standards, servers must undergo alcohol server training, check IDs, and not serve impaired patrons.

The Watertown Licensing Board has provided itself with some time to draft regulations, which will not go into effect until April 1, 2016. Ultimately the Licensing Board has discretion as to the issuance of BYOB permits, which may include restrictions on how much alcohol patrons are allowed to bring into establishments. New restaurants will have to wait six months before they are eligible to apply for a BYOB permit, and any establishment that has had its previously issued Chapter 138 license suspended or revoked will not be eligible for BYOB permit.

 

 

(Un?)happy Hour, Private Functions & the Dos & Don'ts of Alcohol Pricing

No happy hour dollar drafts here! The Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) enforces the Commonwealth’s ban on happy hour discounts on alcoholic beverages. The ban, in place since 1984, forbids a licensee from changing prices on alcohol during the same calendar week. Massachusetts was the first state to enact such a rule and is one of only a few with such a rule left on its books. (See Time Magazine's recent article regarding the last states standing strong with bans on happy hour.) Earlier this year Beacon Hill legislators withdrew a proposal to alter the ban, citing lack of support. (See a thorough explanation of both sides of the happy hour argument by Statehouse reporter Christian Wade here.)

Until the legislature or ABCC acts to repeal or limit the ban on promotional pricing, restaurants, bars, and retailers must be aware of the so-called “Happy Hour Regulations.” The regulation requires that all alcoholic beverage prices must remain the same for a calendar week. Private functions are the sole exception to the rule (which is another blog post in and of itself). If challenged, the licensee must prove that it qualifies for the private function exception based upon strict requirements set by the ABCC. The ABCC requires:

1. the private function has a host;

2. access to the private function is restricted to invited guests;

3. invited guests are not charged indirectly or directly;

4. the host is the only individual responsible for payment to the licensee;

5. the private function was not publicly advertised; and

6. written records containing the guest list exist and are available for inspection by the licensing authorities. 

Regulations impact licensees in various ways. For example, licensees may not deliver pitchers to a single patron. Licensees may not allow or encourage drinking games. Licensees offering a “bucket” of beers violate the Happy Hour Regulation if the price per beer contained in the “bucket” is less than what the establishment charges for a single beer. (See Boston Nightlife Ventures, Inc., ABCC Decision, 1/13/09). To somewhat skirt the (un)Happy Hour rule, many bars and restaurants discount food in place of discounts on alcohol

While the Happy Hour Regulation focus on on-premise licensees, off-premise licensees, by law, must “keep conspicuously posted in each room where any alcoholic beverages are sold a price list of such beverages.” Massachusetts General Laws, Ch. 138 § 15. Coupons offering discounts on alcoholic beverages are strictly forbidden as they alter the price offered from the establishment’s price list to which an off-premise licensee must adhere. The ABCC has imposed one day license suspensions on licensees caught accepting or distributing coupons in violation of this provision of Chapter 138. See Denrich Enterprises, Inc., d.b.a. Liberty Liquors, ABCC Decision, 1/24/97 (licensee had $1 off coupons printed on the back of grocery store receipts and had accepted at least six such coupons); West Mansfield, Inc., d.b.a. Rum Runner Wine & Spirits, ABCC Decision, 1/24/97 (licensee had 10% and 15% discount coupons printed on the back of Stop & Shop receipts, the ABCC rejected the argument that the coupons at issue were available to the general public).

Before engaging in a practice which may lower prices for short time periods, or for some, but not all customers, a licensee should seek legal guidance for the proper course of action, or it may be at risk for sanctions by licensing authorities.

What are your thoughts on special drink prices? Coupons? Happy Hour? 

BYOB in Boston?

This past winter, Boston City Councilors At-Large Michelle Wu and Stephen Murphy proposed an amendment to Chapter 17 of the City of Boston Code to allow patrons to bring their own alcoholic beverages into dining establishments that lack an alcoholic beverages license. See Boston Globe article for details. Currently, Massachusetts law prevents patrons from bringing any alcohol into an establishment which already holds a license to sell or serve alcoholic beverages. According to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC), unlicensed establishments are at the mercy of local officials: every municipality is free to prohibit, allow, or license the practice known as “Bring Your Own Bottle,” (“BYOB”).

Some locales, such as Mansfield, MA, issue BYOB (beer and wine only) permits to unlicensed establishments for free, however they elect to include certain caveats, such as TIPs training for servers, ID checking, and corkage fee rules. (Helpful tip: TIPs training is always a good idea for any restaurant establishment.) As another example, the Watertown Town Council is scheduled to vote on the subject of BYOB this week (September 22), at it's public hearing.  Watertown's liquor license quota is currently capped at 34, while it awaits the legislature's decision in response to it's home rule petition for 15 additional licenses. Boston, like Cambridge, and Somerville, ban the BYOB practice all together. 

Boston could learn from the experience in other municipalities and states when proposing new BYOB regulations for the City. Take Pennsylvania for example: a licensed or unlicensed restaurant may opt to allow BYOB. (See PA's law in further detail here.) Some municipalities in Pennsylvania charge fees for a BYOB permit, while others will issue it free of charge and use the license as a means of ensuring that the establishment is current on all of its local taxes and fees. The City of Philadelphia alone (probably the prime example of BYOB in the country) has over 200 BYOB establishments in Center City.  According to wine writer Roger Morris, restaurants in Pennsylvania have “turned a major negative—limited liquor licenses, and expensive ones at that—into a marketing positive” using BYOB. 

Let’s face it: the ability to sell and serve alcoholic beverages at full-service dining establishments increases frequency of visitors and the chances that patrons stay a little longer and return time and time again for a complete dining experience.  However, with all-alcoholic beverage licenses costing nearly $400,000 in Boston, a BYOB option could theoretically help those first time restaurant owners or young chefs with less capital focus on the food while they attempt to earn their place in the ever-evolving restaurant industry.

Of course, the allowance of BYOB would not come without its restrictions and regulations.  The Boston BYOB proposal states that instituting BYOB would “encourage local economic development.” But how should it be regulated? Is it fair to those who have paid thousands of dollars for liquor licenses? Should there be a cost for BYOB permits? Should the number of seats matter? Should geographic restrictions be imposed? Does this even make sense for the Boston restaurant scene?  Let's hear your thoughts.

Second Round of New Boston Liquor Licenses Become Available

Last summer, legislators on Beacon Hill debated and ultimately passed an economic development bill increasing the number of alcoholic beverages licenses available in Boston. (See the full text of the law here.) Legislators faced two camps: the first argued that new licenses stimulate the economy, while the other camp sought to preserve significant investments required to obtain then-existing licenses. The first group splintered into two main reforms. One reform championed by Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, sought to remove the statutory cap and allow the cities and towns to decide how many licenses to issue. Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson proposed the issuance of geographically restricted licenses. (See the Boston Globe on the two schools of thought here.) 

Ultimately, legislators compromised between granting additional licenses and protecting significant investments previously made by the business community to purchase existing licenses. The legislature passed a bill to phase in 75 new licenses over 3 years, with the first batch made available on September 1, 2014.  60 of the new licenses are geographically restricted and cannot be transferred. The remaining 15 new licenses were originally intended to be unrestricted all alcoholic beverage licenses; however, those licenses have not been issued due to inconsistencies in the legislation which still need to be addressed.

The new restricted licenses (up to 20 issued each year; 60 total) are restricted to certain areas of Boston.  These licenses are limited to 7 neighborhoods: Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill, Roxbury and Main Street Districts as designated by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (“BRA”). See The Department of Neighborhood Development's map of Main Streets Districts here.  Each of these licenses, once issued, cannot be transferred to a different neighborhood or area in which it was originally issued and cannot be transferred to any other person or entity.

As of August 2015, all 20 restricted licenses had been issued. The bulk of the new licenses were issued to businesses in Dorchester (6), and in various Main Streets Districts (Chinatown, South End, Allston and Roslindale), while 3 were issued in East Boston, and the rest in Hyde Park, Roxbury and Jamaica Plain.  No applications had yet been received for new licenses in Mattapan or Mission Hill.  See a map of where some of these neighborhood based licenses have been issued here.  

A call to the Boston Licensing Board on August 28, 2015 revealed that there are currently no licenses available. However, under the legislation,15 restricted all alcoholic beverages licenses and 5 restricted wine and malt beverages licenses can be issued effective today, September 1, 2015.