Take 2: Liquor License Buy-Backs

Take 2: Liquor License Buy-Backs

There was an article in the Boston Globe Thursday (See: Expansion of liquor licenses in Boston faces pushback from restaurant group) that touched on the debate re: Boston’s liquor licensing quagmire. The crux of the issues is this: many at the City (including the Mayor) want to see more liquor licenses made available but many restaurateurs (and the MA Restaurant Association) want to keep a cap on the number of licenses (this is an oversimplification, but OK for now — read the article for more nuance).

Here’s how is see it (also an oversimplification): Liquor licenses are too expensive in the City of Boston ($450K) and serve as an unnecessary and enormous barrier of entry for most entrepreneurs in an already challenged market even pre COVID-19. Conversely, there are hundreds of restaurateurs that have spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase their existing licenses and don’t want to see a major devaluation of such, which is totally understandable.

This tension, and the one that is detailed in the Globe article, is why I put out this idea on March 17th (See: LIQUOR LICENSES BUY BACKS TO SUPPORT OUR RESTAURANTS: NOW IS THE TIME + cliff notes below too). Mid-March was probably a little too early in the evolution of COVID-19 ideating for this thought to gain any real traction, but maybe with the Globe article of yesterday and folks moving into COVID-19 era problem solving mode we can get some momentum and chatter behind this idea. Here’s the concept one more time:

  • Public funds made available for ABCC (or another state agency) to buy-back all full-value transferable liquor licenses from restaurants in MA;
  • All full value licenses are seamlessly replaced by no-value nontransferable licenses, thus allowing for uninterrupted on premise alcohol service once we are out of mandatory closures; and
  • All jurisdiction in MA move to a more rational, equitable and streamlined system, which is one that provides to restaurant applicants liquor licenses as of right subject only to municipal hearings (same as today), ABCC review (same as today) and annual fees to cities/towns (same as today in some places and for others more funding to cities — who need it, so this is a good thing too).

Easy, right?

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