Loud and Clear:Charlestown Wants More Liquor Licenses for Restaurants

By Seth Daniel

The call has been heard at City Hall that Charlestown residents and businesses would like to see more liquor licenses available in the neighborhood for restaurants and pubs, and Economic Chief John Barros said a proposed new ordinance would reserve 15 such licenses just for the Town.

“We have heard loud and clear that more liquor licenses are important to Charlestown businesses,” Barros told the Patriot Bridge following a large meeting on Dec. 12 about business development in the Town. “We’re hoping that opportunity is going to come soon.

Barros said an Home Rule petition ordinance before the City Council right now would include around 183 non-transferable new licenses over a period of three years.

Many of those licenses would be reserved for certain areas of the City – as has been done in previous Boston liquor license expansions. In those previous efforts, though, Charlestown has been left out and that has been a strain on business districts looking to liven up their foot traffic with new restaurants or an expansion of alcohol offerings at existing restaurants. Charlestown was hampered in that it had to compete with other areas of the City for new licenses – such as the Back Bay and Seaport – or operators had to pay up to $400,000 for a transferrable license on the private market.

Under the new bill, Barros said that would all change for the Town.

“The ordinance is crafted in a way to reserve the liquor licenses for each neighborhood,” he said. “Each neighborhood identified would receive five liquor licenses per year for three years. They would be restricted licenses so all would be restricted to Charlestown and would be non-transferrable as well. That means if the business closes down or doesn’t use their license, it would go back to the City on the shelf and would be available for other Charlestown businesses.”

Over the three-year period, the Town would have 15 new restricted licenses that could be used for new restaurants or existing restaurants.

“We know it is extremely difficult on the secondary market,” he said. “If you’re starting a small business in a neighborhood, $300, 000 to $400,000 is a lot of money to come up with. This could end that.”

Right now, the bill is pending approval at the City Council, but it does appear to have the support of the Council and Mayor Martin Walsh. If approved by the Council, due to Boston’s old liquor license restrictions by the state, the ordinance would have to be presented and voted by the State House.

State Rep. Dan Ryan has been very instrumental in getting the restricted licenses into the bill for Charlestown and is one of the state delegation members championing the new configuration.

In previous attempts to expand the Boston liquor license allotment, controversy has erupted between the City and state – preventing passage.

Barros said they believe this time will be entirely different.

“We’ve had numerous conversations with state leadership and state representatives like Dan Ryan and others to make sure the bill is written right and we have the kind of input we need to see this gets done,” he said.

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