Why Liquor License Laws Aren’t the Only Things That Need To Change
City officials would like to see communication efforts between event organizers and the police improve as well.
City officials in charge of making sure that bars and restaurants are complying with the state liquor laws are likely scoping out websites where organizers advertise their get-togethers and invite attendees to sign up.Â Then, on the night of the gatherings, police assigned to the licensing division swoop in and issue citations for various premise violations.
âI am knowledgeable that the police look at Facebook and Eventbrite as part of the monitoring they have [in place],â said City Councilor Tito Jackson. âIf they have information prior to an event, we should either be picking up the phone, visiting the bar, or having a conversation and reminding people of the laws or rules and regulations, rather than show up the night of the event and shut it down.â
While it hasnât yet been confirmed, this may have been the case for a recent Boston tech party held this past Friday at the Revere Hotel, for start-up companies looking to mingle with people in other offices. The Stuart Street establishment was issued a citation by officers assigned to the Licensing Division for allegedly violating the open bar laws in Massachusetts, according to a hotel spokesman.
The Revere Hotel was host to this yearâs âBoston Holiday Tech Co-Party,â at Space 57, which is organized by local startup company Promoboxx. The party is meant to bring together people in the tech community that work in offices with a limited number of employees, so they can share the same holiday experiences as larger businesses in Boston, and celebrate accordingly.
Tickets were being sold on EventBrite for $30 to $50, giving attendees access to an open barâwhich is what set off an alarm for police.
âFrom what Boston Police said to us the night of the event, they watch EventBrite, where we sold the tickets, and they look for âOpen Bar,â which is their concern,â said Ben Carcio, CEO of PromoBoxx âThey view it as unlimited drinking for a ticketed price.â
In Massachusetts, itâs illegal to have a public open bar event. According to the Liquor Control Act, commonly referred to as the âHappy Hourâ law, set by the stateâs Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, âoffering or delivering any free drinks to any person or group of personsâ is prohibited.
The rules also state that âselling, offering to sell, or delivering to any person an unlimited number of drinks during any set period of time for a fixed price, except at private functions not open to the publicâ is not allowed. âFurthermore, no licensee shall advertise or promote in any way, whether within or without the licensed premises, any of the practices prohibited under [the law],â according to the ABCC.
Unfortunately for Carcio, who has been holding the Tech Co-Party for the last three years, he didnât know this. He said he wished the cityâif they knew about the open barâhad given them a âheads upâ before they held the event, which donated a portion of proceeds to charity, to avoid embarrassment.
âIf they were planning this, they could have just let us know [open bar was not allowed],â he said. âThat one little thing would have prevented any of this being more than it needed to be.Â If the ABCC and the police department want to help the community and prevent embarrassment, they could have reached out. But they waited for it and made it awkward for everyone.â
Boston has requested a copy of the report from the night of the party, but is awaiting a reply from the Police Department. Officials from the Licensing Board, who hear cases following violations, did not return several requests for comment. A hearing for this particular violation has not been scheduled because the report has not been filed with the board.
Jackson, who was not aware of the specifics of the Tech Co-Party, has been a staunch advocate of supporting and harboring the start-up community. Like Carcio, he would like to see some sort of communication happen between local law enforcement and event organizers, prior to party busts, so that everyone can better understand what the rules are.
âIt sounds like this group could have easily switched and had drink tickets insteadÂ of an open bar situation, had they known. They donât seem like scofflaw folks. If there was a prior indication this was a problem, there should have been some outreach,â said Jackson. âThe proactive approach, I think, is better than a punitive approach. I think if this information is there, then it would be better to have a conversation with event organizers and the [venues], just as a reminder of the regulations.â
Jackson said he has had friends, unaware of the laws, who have hosted parties that were shut down by police because they were publicly posted on Facebook. He said the fact that police are monitoring Facebook and EventBrite isnât the issueâsince they are public invitesâbut the fact that police could easily pick up the phone and let someone know they may be in violation, but donât, is worrisome.
âThe underlying issue here isnât the monitoring aspect, itâs what police do with the information once they have it,â Jackson said. âThese are people who have a vested interest in following the rules because they have a liquor license. And I look at it as, how do we do the right thing by these organizations, as well as by these businesses, that give great deal of revenue to the city?â
Although Carcioâs party didnât get shut down in the end, and the police were understanding once they âsaw how it was being run,â to show there were no hard feelings, they donated $500 of the proceeds to the Boston Police Charitable Foundation.
âEverything at that point turned out fine,â Carcio said. âBesides, itâs not a great party until the police show up.â
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/12/17/liquor-license-laws-arent-things-need-change/