The disparities are glaring: Restaurants with liquor licenses are concentrated in Boston’s more affluent neighborhoods. Of the city’s 1,110 licenses, a negligible number are held by African-American owners. Mattapan has no restaurant that serves alcohol.
A Boston liquor license can cost $400,000 or more, putting it out of reach for anyone without deep pockets and the right business connections. But a recent proposal by city officials to expand access by creating more than 150 low-cost licenses is meeting resistance from restaurateurs who are convinced that the plan would be unfair and jeopardize their businesses.
City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, with backing from the Walsh administration, in June unveiled legislation that would designate 105 new licenses costing about $3,000 for lower-income neighborhoods such as Mattapan, Roxbury, Mission Hill, and East Boston. The city implemented a similar expansion in 2014, but the new bill also creates licenses that can be used anywhere in the city, and that has restaurateurs worried.