Liquor license push heads to Hill
Add it to the wish list: Another home-rule petition from Boston appears set to join its comrades up on Beacon Hill as the city seeks the state’s blessing to add 250 liquor licenses to specific neighborhoods over five years.
The City Council passed by an 11-0 vote a proposal to have non-transferable liquor licenses tied to certain ZIP codes, intending to respond to the fact that the boom of bars and restaurants in neighborhoods near downtown and, particularly, the Seaport have resulted in the typical transferrable licenses getting hoovered up into those areas, leaving little in the farther-flung parts of town.
The proposal from City Councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Ruthzee Louijeune and Brian Worrell would roll out five liquor licenses a year each to 10 ZIP codes around the city in an effort to spur economic development in some of the city’s neighborhoods that need it. Arroyo, the government operations chair, said liquor licenses also encourage better-quality restaurants and fewer fast-foodtype places, improving health.
“There’s an actual butterfly effect from liquor licenses to community health,” Arroyo said.
Worrell talked about the economic benefits for areas that have historically been left out.
“It will start providing the tools our Black and brown restaurant owner need create vibrant business districts and neighborhoods,” he said.
Mayor Michelle Wu intends to sign the homerule petition, her office said.
That means it now will climb up Beacon Hill to the State House, where this type of legislation needs the approval of both chambers and the signature of the governor before it would go into effect.
The hill is a notorious graveyard for local homerule petitions, and several ones that are particularly ambitious — read: likely to get looked askance by at least some denizens of the State House — have been passed recently by Wu and the council.
These are seen as some of Wu’s big legislative wins, including abolishment and reformation of the Boston Planning & Development Agency and rent control — but none go into effect without Beacon Hill’s signoff.
But there is precedent for the State House to approve liquor-license changes; just last year, it passed a home-rule petition seeking four licenses specific to the Bolling Building in Roxbury and the Strand Theatre in Uphams Corner.
Previous attempts similar to this new one, though, have failed.
Right now, Boston’s 1,400-plus current liquor licenses can be sold from owner to owner, generally going for $500,000 to $700,000, the councilors said. This means the bigmoney new spots going in in places like the Seaport that are willing to pay that kind of cash end up pricing neighborhood restaurants out.
The law, which would need state approval, would apply to ZIP codes 02119, 02121, 02122, 02124, 02125, 02126, 02128, 02131, 02132, and 02136 — areas including Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Roslindale, East Boston and Hyde Park. It would make five new-non-transferrable licenses available a year for five years for each ZIP code. Three of those would be all-alcohol and two for sales of wine and liquor.