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Now’s the Time to Open Your Dream Restaurant-Bar in Boston

A potential influx of 150 liquor licenses into Boston would open the door for new restaurateurs.
A potential influx of 150 liquor licenses into Boston would open the door for new restaurateurs.Sedat Suna/EPA

A wave of new liquor licenses could be coming to Boston restaurants soon, and that’s good news for prospective restaurant owners hoping to add some alcohol revenues. It’s also a disadvantage to existing alcohol-selling restaurants, who have paid big money to get licenses that could soon be given out with less of a hassle and cost.

The Massachusetts Senate passed its $76 million economic development package by a 37-1 vote on Tuesday, and the bill included language that would allow bars along MBTA routes to be open past 2 a.m., would move liquor licensing powers from the state to municipalities, and would grant Boston 150 new liquor licenses over the next three years.

It’s that last change that’s causing concern among existing alcohol-selling restaurant owners. Liquor licenses can sell for up to six-digit prices, and business owners who have spent time and money going through the licensing process could see the value of their existing investment drop as the result of the additional 150 new Boston licenses.

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“There has to be thoughtful deliberation and consideration given to protect those existing owners who have paid a significant premium for a license and sometimes have even used that as a pledge-able asset with their lender to help build the business,” Bob Luz, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association president, told Boston Magazine.

Of course, the new licenses would be good for burgeoning entrepreneurial restaurateurs, who could begin selling alcohol more quickly and with a smaller up-front investment.

The package passed by the state senate still needs to clear the hurdle of being passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives, as the House bill did not include the liquor licensing language. The two chambers will reconcile their respective bills in a coming conference committee.

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