Bottoms Up: Boston to Receive 75 New Liquor Licenses

Three freshly filled draught pints ready to be served
Boston is adding more liquor licenses to restaurants in outlying areas.
Olaf Speier

Select areas of Boston will receive 75 liquor licenses over the next three years after a Massachusetts joint committee approved an economic development bill on Wednesday night. The bill is an attempt to rejuvinate outlying neighborhoods by boosting their food (and drinks) industries.

The bill creates 25 new liquor licenses per year over the next three years, a staff researcher for the committee explained to Twenty of those licenses will allow restaurants to sell all alcohol beverages, and five will allow sales of beer and wine.

Those licenses will only be awarded to places in Dorchester, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill, and Roxbury, as well as locations the Boston Redevelopment Authority deems “main street districts.” The goal, as BostInno explains, is to make those areas into popular destinations and, in doing so, encourage people to spend their money there. The liquor licenses will be “neighborhood restricted,” keeping the ability to sell booze specific to that designated area.

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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has pushed for licenses to go to outlying Boston neighborhoods since his days as a mayoral candidate.

“The root of the problem is that the state law limits the number of liquor licenses available to cities, while imposing an especially hard cap on Boston-based licenses,” he said last August. “As Mayor, I will support any effort that helps people start restaurants and similar vehicles of neighborhood revitalization in places where our people actually live.”

The bill also gives the mayor the power to appoint a three-person licensing board to choose where the new licenses should be given. Earlier this month, Walsh pushed for adding licenses and transferring control of those licenses to City Hall instead the state. Other Massachusetts mayors have similarly asked for local control of liquor licenses to avoid the state logjam.

Early in July, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill that would have granted 150 new liquor licenses, while the House-approved bill did not add any new licenses. The joint committee on Wednesday night, designed to settle any differences between the two bills, compromised with 75 licenses.

You can read the full bill here.