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.