City Councilor Sal LaMattina was one of 12 Councilors that voted in favor of At-Large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s home rule petition to return the liquor license process to the City of Boston. The measure passed 12-1 with Councilor Bill Linehan casting the only dissenting vote.
“I took this issue on two years ago because it is an issue that impacts every neighborhood in our city,” Pressley said. “It’s time for Boston to have control over how to economically revitalize our neighborhoods. I feel strongly that we have struck the right balance between protecting our current license owners and providing opportunity for entrepreneurs and every neighborhood to thrive.”
According to the home rule petition, the law would grant full authority to the Boston Licensing Board to control the liquor license process and removes the arbitrary state cap and grants full authority to the Licensing Board to establish the process for distributing licenses. However, it does require the Licensing Board to consider public need, which allows it to address over- and under-saturation.
One of the highlights of the proposal is that all liquor licenses would be tied to the business and not the physical address of the business. This would mean licenses would be returned to the city if the restaurant goes out of business or is revoked.
The main reason LaMattina said he voted for the home rule petition is that is requires the Licensing Board to make distribution of licenses a priority in Main Street districts, urban renewal areas, empowerment zones and municipal harbor plan areas. The Licensing Board is directed to consider innovative business models that offer unique products and services such as art bars, theaters, and butcher shops.
“I voted for the home rule petition because it gives power back to the city and identifies a need for neighborhoods that do not have enough beer and wine licenses or liquor licenses,” said LaMattina. “In East Boston for example, I’ve seen many occasions where restaurants or businesses open and to only close several months later because they did not have a license to serve alcohol. Many people like to go out for dinner and enjoy a drink, a glass of wine or a beer and in order for businesses to compete and strive they need to be on the same level playing field as other neighborhoods.”
Under the law the new Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, will have authority to appoint members of the Licensing Board and gives City Council authority to approve those appointments and will expand the Licensing Board from three to five members.
One member of the Licensing Board must be from the business community with knowledge of establishing businesses and implementing business plans. One member of the Licensing Board will be a representative from an empowerment zone, urban renewal, district or main street district.
The Licensing Board will also consider public need and business models that fit the character and aesthetic quality of the neighborhood before issuing licenses under the law.