Boston Will Get 75 Additional Liquor Licenses

They will be awarded over the next three years.

Beer photo uploaded by Wagner T. Cassimiro on Flickr

Beer photo uploaded by Wagner T. Cassimiro on Flickr



Thursday, July 31, is a date that “will forever be branded” in City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s mind.

After two years of working tirelessly to bring a boost to restaurants in certain Boston neighborhoods, Pressley’s plan to allow for more liquor license permits in the city was passed by elected leaders on Beacon Hill.

With just hours left in this year’s legislative session, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate pushed through an Economic Development bill that included an amendment to grant Boston an additional 75 liquor licenses, marking the first time since 2006 that the city has seen such an increase. The city will be awarded 25 licenses per year for the next three years.

“Obviously, I’m ecstatic. This is progress,” said Pressley. “When we first started on this path many people discouraged us from pursuing it…but I thought it was a fight worth having for the city of Boston.”

She said this is a historic step in the right direction.

According to the details in the legislation, which will now head to Governor Deval Patrick’s desk for his signature, over the course of three years the city will receive 15 licenses that are not restricted, meaning they can be transferred by the owner to various neighborhoods, 45 non-transferable all-alcohol licenses that are reserved for Main Street Districts and the neighborhoods of Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill, and Roxbury, and 15 wine and malt beverage licenses that are also reserved for those same areas.

Main Street Districts are parts of the city designated by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. There are 19 non-profit organizations, supported by the Boston Main Streets Foundation, that oversee these commercial zones.

By restricting some of the licenses it will keep them from moving out of the neighborhoods where they are awarded, striking a balance with the parts of Boston that have an overabundance of licenses crammed into small parameters already.

“Despite high demand, the city of Boston has not received a cap increase on liquor licenses since 2006,” said Mayor Marty Walsh in a late-night statement following the vote on Beacon Hill. “A lack of licenses has hindered further economic growth in our neighborhoods, supporting robust spaces where people want to live, work, shop, and eat.”

The plan also puts the control of the city’s liquor licensing board into Walsh’s hands, who will select a three-person commission to handle the issuance of all licenses, dissolving the current board appointed by Patrick. Walsh will become the first mayor of Boston to have control of the entity in more than a century, putting the city in line with other communities throughout the Commonwealth that already retain powers over the license distribution process.

He said because of this legislation, the city would have the ability to support small and local businesses in neighborhoods that historically have had less access to licenses.

That was Pressley’s intent when she first filed a home rule petition to make the changes back in June of 2013, asking the state to lift the cap on the number of licenses Boston was allowed.

“This is about recognizing that in order for our community to be healthy, it has to have a thriving main streets, and restaurants play a critical role in that,” she argued at the State House earlier this year when advocating for her proposal. “[Restaurants] are community anchors, they incentivize foot traffic, they make blighted neighborhoods that have been marginalized and disenfranchised—they can convert them and they can transform them by making them destination locations.”

Now, they will have a better opportunity to do that.