Boston Mayor Michelle Wu appeared earlier than state lawmakers Monday to foyer for a house rule petition that will enable the town to situation 250 new liquor licenses in particular neighborhoods over the subsequent 5 years.
By tying non-transferable licenses to 10 ZIP codes, the laws seeks to treatment inequities created by the town’s present construction, which permits licenses to be transferred from the focused neighborhoods to wealthier areas just like the downtown and Seaport, Wu instructed a joint legislative committee.
“We have a system now where some neighborhoods have more than 60 liquor licenses, and some have fewer than 10,” Wu mentioned. “It is those neighborhoods that are often home to lower-income residents, residents of color, where there are hardly any sit-down restaurants, if at all.”
This is due partially to a scarcity of accessible licenses. When a bar or restaurant shuts down, the license is typically bought by companies on a so-called secondary market.
Driven by excessive demand, the price of these privately bought licenses, at $600,000-plus, is prohibitive to “new entrepreneurs representing different cultures,” Wu mentioned.
“That means that when they open up, they often get pulled to areas of the city with higher foot traffic, wealthier areas, less diverse and representative of all of the cultures of Boston,” she mentioned.
Today’s system operates as a “zero-sum game,” added City Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune, who, together with Councilors Brian Worrell and Ricardo Arroyo co-sponsored the house rule petition handed by the physique and signed by the mayor in March.
“Each new establishment in areas like the Seaport often means a closure of a restaurant elsewhere,” Louijeune mentioned. “This creates a competitive environment where growth in one neighborhood comes at the expense of another.”
She added, “By adding more liquor licenses, we can break the zero-sum cycle and promote growth throughout the city without displacing existing businesses.”
The laws would search to treatment that by tying 250 non-transferrable liquor licenses to 10 of the town’s 38 ZIP codes, 02119, 02121, 02122, 02124, 02125, 02126, 02128, 02131, 02132, and 02136 — areas together with Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Roslindale, East Boston and Hyde Park.
It would make 5 new licenses accessible a yr for 5 years for every ZIP code. Three of these can be all-alcohol and two for gross sales of wine and liquor.
Unlike the present system, metropolis officers mentioned, the licenses couldn’t be bought or transferred if a bar or restaurant had been to shut. Rather, the license would revert again to the town’s licensing board for issuance in the identical ZIP code.
While a lot of the day’s listening to featured advocacy from an array of restaurateurs, metropolis and state officers, members of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure did elevate a lot of considerations with the petition.
“I don’t understand why the city hasn’t tried to recapture those licenses that were extracted from the neighborhoods and remove that type of practice, which seems to be more predatory,” state Rep. David LeBoeuf mentioned of the secondary market, “and essentially affects the communities that are looking for more licenses.”
Committee members questioned whether or not there can be demand for 250 new liquor licenses within the focused neighborhoods over the subsequent 5 years. They additionally raised considerations a couple of potential monopoly in a delegated space when it comes to an proprietor snatching up all 5 accessible licenses.
“Bringing in more licensure and restaurants sometimes can be viewed as the first step in gentrification,” Mary Keefe, the House committee vice chair, mentioned.
To change into regulation, the invoice, sponsored by state Rep. Christopher Worrell and Sen. Liz Miranda, would wish to cross the complete Legislature and be signed by the governor.