Another Round: Mayor Walsh to File Bill to Keep Bars Open Past 2 a.m.
Mayor Marty Walsh is taking another shot at keeping bars open past 2 a.m. in Boston.
On Friday, the mayor’s office released the “City of Boston State Legislative Agenda” for the 2015 and 2016 session. As part of the comprehensive package of plans he hopes to move forward with this year, Walsh emphasized the importance of putting a boost in the city’s economy, by trying to extend the last call hours at drinking establishments like bars and restaurants.
According to the agenda, Walsh is working with Senator William Brownsberger and State Representative Evandro Carvalho to push through a bill, called “An Act Modernizing the Business Licensing Process,” that includes a proposal to “allow restaurants and bars to remain open past 2 a.m.”
“This legislation proposes to make changes to existing licensing requirements that would further the mayor’s goals of streamlining the regulatory process and strengthening small businesses citywide,” according to the preliminary details outlined in the legislative agenda sent out on Friday.
Joseph Rull, Walsh’s chief of operations, who handles intergovernmental relations and neighborhood services for the administration, told Boston that the mayor’s office will be working with their partners in the legislature, as well as residents and businesses in Boston, to hammer out the specifics. “We want to make sure it’s fully vetted out with legislators, and also with residents who live near those businesses,” he said.
Rull said if the proposal were to move ahead this session, once it’s assigned to committee, it would be unlikely that every Boston bar could stay open past 2 a.m. “It’s not a blanket approach for all of Boston; we could start it in pilot areas,” he said. “It’s small steps and small victories…to see what economic development success it could have.”
The bill, if passed—a process that will take time and the governor’s signature—also proposes eliminating the Common Victuallers license requirement for businesses that don’t sell alcohol, and getting rid of specialty licenses for pool tables, bowling alleys, and “automatic amusement devices.” The Mayor’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing, and the city’s Licensing Division currently grant these types of approvals. By eliminating these specialty license requirements, bars, for example, would be able to have coin-operated arcade games without going through the arduous process of applying for permits.
“If you want to have a pinball machine, there’s no need to have extra layer of bureaucracy for a business owner to go through,” said Rull. “It’s geared toward making positive changes so that the red tape isn’t nearly as thick. If you have a sandwich shop and want to have a television in there…it’s our belief that you don’t have to have special permits just for that.”
Back in March of last year, just one month into his role as mayor, Walsh announced that he planned on making a push to extend last call hours at bars past 2.am. He later convened a “Late Night Task Force,” a committee comprised of business leaders, students, and stakeholders in the nightlife industry to conjure up ways to inject some life into the city’s after-hours scene. By May, some progress was made on the proposal, but ultimately it floundered as the legislative session came to a close last summer.