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Logan liquor plan could free up licenses

By Katie Johnston Chase
Globe Staff / August 24, 2010

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Thirteen highly coveted Boston liquor licenses could be freed up if a proposal for a special airport liquor license goes through.

The Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan International Airport, has drafted a petition requesting that the city grant new restricted airport licenses to the approximately 40 vendors, including restaurants and airline clubs, that serve alcohol at the airport.

Currently, these operators share about 13 regular liquor licenses, with several of them sharing licenses that belong to Logan terminal retail managers — Airmall USA, formerly BAA, and Westfield Concession Management — which have one apiece.

Each restaurant, bar, and club at Logan would have to purchase a new airport license — $2,500 for an all-inclusive license, $1,000 for beer and wine only — and those that currently have their own liquor licenses would have to sell them to a Boston establishment outside the airport, pending approval from the Boston Licensing Board.

Having each airport vendor responsible for its own license, instead of having many of them sharing a license owned by their retail manager, will make the administrative process simpler, said Lowell Richards, chief development officer for Massport.

“We want to get the responsibility lined up very clearly so if something’s wrong, we know who to address the problems and who is responsible for solving them,’’ he said. “It’s just over time gotten to be more and more complicated and confusing.’’

Massport modeled its proposal after similar geographic-specific liquor license arrangements at Patriot Place and Legacy Place, Richards said. The petition will be introduced at tomorrow’s Boston City Council meeting; if it is approved by the council and the mayor, it will go on to the state Legislature.

Passing the proposal is “a no-brainer for the city,’’ said City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina, who represents East Boston, where Logan is located. The number of liquor licenses in Boston is strictly capped, which drives up the market value for the 1,080 liquor licenses in circulation. Those for beer and wine can sell for $25,000, and those for all types of alcohol can fetch as much as $300,000.

Having 13 licenses available at once would be a rare event, said LaMattina, noting there is a waiting list for operators who want to purchase one.

The last time so many were available, he said, was in 2006 when the state awarded the city 20 new licenses to satisfy pent-up demand.

Katie Johnston Chase can be reached at johnstonchase@globe.com.