Progress Made In Effort to Turn Boston Into a Late-Night Destination

An amendment was attached to the Senate budget that would allow cities to explore the option sooner.


According to Mayor Marty Walsh, things are headed in the right direction on Beacon Hill.

The amendment now has to go through the House of Representatives for approval, and would later need to be signed off by Governor Deval Patrick.


Boston could be getting late-night bar service sooner than expected.

City officials and local think-tank groups said Wednesday that an amendment attached to the state Senate’s budget proposal, which is currently being hashed out by elected leaders on Beacon Hill, could allow for watering holes and restaurants located near the MBTA to serve alcohol past 2 a.m. beginning as soon as July.

According to the details of the amendment, filed by Senator Linda Dorcena Forry last week at the request of Mayor Marty Walsh and his administration, bars and eateries would have the option to sell alcohol later as long as they’re within distance of the T, which recently launched a late-night program of its own. “This is another way to ensure Boston remains a world class city and a leader in the growing global economy,” said Forry. She said other local governing boards in cities like Cambridge, Somerville, or Brookline, which are also in proximity of the T’s late-night trains, could choose to opt into this provision and follow in Boston’s footsteps.

If enacted, the proposal would allow Walsh’s newly appointed Late Night Task Force to more easily implement pilot tests in specific parts of the city to find out if there’s a demand for a permanent after-hours venture. “The ability to conduct these pilots in conjunction with MBTA’s late-night service will give us the most accurate picture as to whether a late-night model works in Boston as it does in other U.S. world-class cities such as New York City and Chicago,” a spokesperson from Walsh’s office said.

The Task Force has met several times since April to talk about the feasibility of allowing after-hours services in Boston, including keeping gyms, laundromats, and cafes open past typical closing times. To start, members of the group are considering running the pilot programs in places like the Innovation District or Faneuil Hall, where the swarms of late-night revelers would have less of an impact on residents living in the neighborhood.

If the legislature votes in favor of the amendment as part of the fiscal year 2015 budget, details state that licensees eligible for the late-night alcohol service extension would still have to go through the city’s tedious public licensing process.

News of the amendment made waves on Wednesday when the organization Onein3 made a public update about the Task Force’s work to get the ball rolling on the late-night entertainment options in select neighborhoods. “Hardly a day—or piece of policy—goes by without Mayor Marty Walsh stressing the importance of our young adult population in Boston. He understands that today’s workforce is changing and Boston is competing in a global market to attract the best talent,” according to a statement from the group.

The filed amendment doesn’t mean it’s a done deal, however. Passing this proposal would merely speed up the process of allowing the Task Force to roll out the pilot programs if they find it’s a suitable proposition for the city’s businesses and neighborhoods. “[This amendment] just gives us the opportunity to do it more quickly,” said a spokesperson from the mayor’s office.