City Councilor Hopes to Bring Life to Dudley Square With More Liquor Licenses

Because alcohol makes things more exciting.

Images via the BRA

Images via the BRA

While City Councilor Ayanna Pressley works hard to put the control of Boston’s liquor licenses back into the hands of local authorities, another elected official at City Hall is eyeing ways to revitalize one specific section of the city.

City Councilor Tito Jackson filed a petition for a special law this week asking that the state legislature allow the Licensing Board to supply 12 liquor licenses to businesses strictly within Dudley Square. If the law is passed, storeowners surrounded by the borders of Tremont Street, Melnea Cass Boulevard, Harrison Avenue, Dudley Street, and Malcolm X Boulevard would benefit from the plan.

The area is the focal point of recent construction and neighborhood revitalization projects, including a new police station, developments on two large parcels of land on Washington Street, and the redevelopment of the Dudley Square Municipal Center.

According to Jackson’s proposal, granting the 12 licenses to the burgeoning business neighborhood—six on-premise licenses for the sale of all alcoholic beverages and six additional licenses solely for the sale of wine and malt beverages—would offset the disproportionate number of liquor licenses that are currently held by restaurant and bar owners in other parts of Boston.

Due to Prohibition-era laws that are still in place, the city has a cap on the number of licenses it can hand out to proprietors who want to sell alcohol. In Boston, it’s capped at 650 full liquor licenses and 320 wine and malt beverage licenses, and securing a license can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In order to surpass that number, elected officials must seek permission from the state through a home rule petition.

Pressley, who has pushed to give Boston full control of the number of liquor licenses officials from the Licensing Board can dole out to business owners, has said that the cap burdens entrepreneurs that aim to open small neighborhood establishments because they have to rely on alcohol sales for up to a quarter of their revenue in order to compete with other places. She said communities of color have been adversely impacted by the outdated rules.

Pressley’s legislation was voted favorably by the full City Council in December, and is currently awaiting a committee hearing on Beacon Hill.

Jackson hopes his own proposal to revitalize the Dudley Square area will have the same success as Pressley’s. “Responsible establishments with a liquor license have a tremendous positive effect on their neighborhoods through supporting job creation and economic development efforts while also offering significant community and social benefits,” Jackson said in his petition. “Many smaller ‘mom and pop’ restaurants—common throughout many Boston neighborhoods—already struggle to stay open without the benefit of a liquor license, and studies have shown such establishments could see a 25-percent increase in total business through the availability of a license.”

Jackson said areas on a path to economic revival, such as Dudley Square, could use the extra licenses to give the neighborhoods the right boost. If the law passed, the 12 licenses would be non-transferable, meaning business owners could not sell them off to restaurants and bars in other parts of Boston, and the Licensing Board would need to make sure transfers stayed within the neighborhoods.

Jackson’s proposal will go before the City Council during a meeting on Wednesday, March 5.