Hey, This Liquor License Thing Is A Big Deal

A petition to eliminate the cap on liquor licenses should get more attention.

I realize there’s a lot going on around Boston. I get that.

But a genuinely pretty big piece of news happened yesterday: Ayanna Pressley introduced, and most or all of the council signed on with, a home rule petition to eliminate the state cap on the city’s liquor licenses. And as far as I can tell, this site and the Boston Business Journal were pretty much the only ones who took any notice at all.

Pretty much any serious conversation you have about neighborhood development in Boston inevitably includes talk of the liquor license situation, which pretty much amounts to a legal racketeering operation. It’s been a huge problem for the city, and particularly for small-business development in neighborhoods outside of downtown. Nobody can open new restaurants, and without restaurants you can’t build healthy, dynamic retail and business centers.

This home-rule petition, if signed by Mayor Tom Menino and then approved by the state legislature, would potentially spur all that development. You might approve or disapprove of that, or think this is the right or wrong approach, but it’s certainly a big deal.

By the way, Menino has not taken a public position on it, and his office has not yet responded to my inquiry; I am told that he has not privately signaled to the Council his intention to sign or not.

I’m also trying to get reactions from the mayoral candidates; I believe, but have not confirmed, that councilors Felix Arroyo, John Connolly, Mike Ross, and Charles Yancey all formally signed onto the petition yesterday.

Personally, I think this is a bigger deal than the Boston School Committee deciding to expand a health program to which almost nobody in the city objects. But I realize that condoms in high schools implies sex among high schoolers, and apparently that’s always newsworthy.