By John Lynds
Last week, the Boston City Council voted in favor of lifting the long-standing ban on BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) in small neighborhood restaurants like those that line many of the streets in Charlestown.
The bill, introduced by At-Large City Councilor Michelle Wu, would allow patrons to restaurants with 30 seats or less and a waitstaff to bring their own bottles of beer and wine. However, restaurants in Downtown, the North End, South End, Bay Village, Fenway, Chinatown, Seaport, West End, Beacon Hill, and Back Bay neighborhoods of Boston are not eligible for the new BYOB program.
“I feel that it’s great for neighborhoods and small businesses,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina, who voted in favor of the ordinance. “It’s a great way to entice more patrons and increase activity, especially in main streets districts. I applaud Councilor Wu for her leadership on this and making sure that we approach this with common sense by creating a corking fee and limiting the amount of alcohol brought in. Small businesses are the lifeline for many of our neighborhoods that lay outside of the downtown area and I have always supported them. This legislation will go a long way to making sure that these businesses remain solid and prosper”.
Wu said the new ordinance would help small restaurants in Boston’s outer neighborhoods like Charlestown to begin competing with restaurants in areas inundated with beer, wine and liquor licenses. Many Charlestown restaurant owners without beer, wine or liquor licenses have long complained that loose patrons to downtown due to the inability to provide alcohol.
“I’m proud that the City Council voted to end the long-standing ban on BYOB in Boston, taking a step to support more neighborhood small restaurants,” said Wu. “Our proposal to do BYOB in a safe, regulated way, is meant to give entrepreneurs an additional tool and residents more dining out options.”
The establishments in eligible neighborhoods would need to first obtain a BYOB License from the Boston Licensing Board before allowing patrons to begin participating in the new BYOB ordinance. A fee of $300 will be assessed upon the granting of the license and must be renewed annually.
The new BYOB program would be highly regulated and patrons may only bring wine in containers no greater than 750ml and malt beverages in containers no greater than 16oz, and only a total amount up to 750ml of wine or up to 72 ounces of malt beverages, or one six-pack of beer, per two people.
Also all new employees at establishments with a BYOB license must participate in an insurance industry-approved safe-service-of-alcohol training that can be done online. All current employees must complete the training within 14 days of the license being awarded.
“Today I voted in support of lifting the City’s ban on BYOB because existing and aspiring restaurateurs and residents alike deserve BYOB as an option,” said At-Large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, whose home rule petition last year returned the oversight of liquor licenses and their distribution from the state to the city. “While this is an important step, and helpful tool, I am keeping my eyes on the ultimate prize – fighting for the City of Boston to have full local control of the liquor licensing process. We must permanently dismantle the arbitrary State cap system which has created disparities across our neighborhoods. Local control remains my focus in the fight for wealth building equity.”