Hundreds more liquor licenses could be coming to Boston’s “long-ignored” neighborhoods under newly proposed legislation.
At a Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure hearing in early October, several Boston City Councilors, accompanied by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, residents, and restaurant owners testified in support of two bills, H.3741 and S.2380, that would create five new licenses a year for five years in 10 zip codes.
The zip codes span the neighborhoods Roxbury, Roslindale, Mattapan, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, East Boston, and large portions of Dorchester. Collectively, they house nearly 40% of the city, yet have just a fraction of the city’s liquor licenses, according to District Four Boston City Councilor and sponsor of the bill Brian Worrell.
“Despite having only half a percent of Boston’s population, South Boston’s waterfront has more than 15% of liquor licenses in the city,” Worrell said at the hearing. “Meanwhile, Dorchester houses over 14% of all Bostonians, yet has less than 3% of the liquor licenses.”
This pattern repeats itself across his district, he said, which includes Mattapan, Dorchester, and parts of Jamaica Plain and Roslindale. Part of the reason for the disparity, Worrell and other elected officials said, is the incredibly high cost of licenses.
A full liquor license sells for around $600,000 in the city of Boston, Wu said, adding that the licenses often get pulled to areas of the city that have higher foot traffic, that are wealthier, and that are less diverse.
“Some neighborhoods have more than 60 liquor licenses and some have fewer than 10,” the mayor said. “It is those neighborhoods that are often home to lower-income residents, residents of color, where there are hardly any sit-down restaurants, if any.”
If passed, the number of licenses in the targeted areas would more than double, and give communities that have long been left out a chance to break into the restaurant scene and improve their neighborhood’s local economy in the process.
“These neighborhood restaurants contribute significantly to the local economy by providing jobs and attracting visitors,” At-Large City Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune said at the hearing.
“Liquor licenses are essential for making sit-down restaurants financially viable. They allow restaurants to offer a full range of dining experiences from fine wines to craft cocktails, which can significantly increase their revenue in an industry with notoriously slim profit margins,” she added.
Not only would the creation of more licenses help the city’s economy, but the licenses would be nontransferable to ensure the economic opportunities stay in the targeted neighborhood.
“The new licenses would be designed to create economic and cultural hubs in parts of the city long-ignored,” Worrell said.
The City Council unanimously approved the current push for new licenses in March. Next, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure must choose to vote on the bills before sending them off to additional committees before the session ends next summer, the Boston Globe reported.
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