May 31, 2024 - News

More booze for Boston after House vote

A barroom

The Quiet Few in East Boston. Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

House lawmakers are prepared to give restaurants in Boston a few more liquor licenses dedicated to neighborhoods thirsty for more beer, wine and cocktails with their meals.

Why it matters: Boston neighborhoods underserved by sit-down restaurants could soon see more eateries with full-service bars.

Driving the news: The House passed a bill granting 205 new non-transferable licenses for food-serving restaurants in lower-income neighborhoods like Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, East Boston and Jamaica Plain.

  • 15 non-transferable licenses would go to nonprofits and three more licenses would be dedicated to Oak Square in Brighton.
  • The bill would also add seven transferable licenses that could be used anywhere in the city.

Between the lines: Boston does not set its own liquor license cap, the state Legislature does. Getting lawmakers to budge on raising the cap for licenses is no small feat.

  • Boston electeds have been trying to expand the number of licenses available to city businesses for years.
  • The city's licenses are capped at about 1,400. Heavy regulation and so few transferable licenses have sent the price of licenses sky high.
  • Buying a full transferable liquor license from an existing licensee could cost as much as $600,000. That's out of the price range for many smaller operators.

The intrigue: Gov. Maura Healey attempted to dip her toe into the muddy politics of liquor licenses earlier this year, but scrapped her plan at the last minute and left it to lawmakers.

What's next: The Senate, where the Boston delegation is a bit weaker, still needs to approve the expansion.

  • The chambers are taking up the bill with only two months left in their lawmaking session, the crunch time when some popular bills fail to get over the finish line to become law.
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