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Councilors to look at seeking four liquor licenses for Nubian Square's Bolling Building

The City Council will consider a proposal to seek permission from the state legislature to give Boston four new liquor licenses that would be restricted to use in the Bolling Building in Nubian Square, as a way to help stimulate economic activity there and help ease the historic disparity between wealthy Boston Proper areas and the city's Black and Brown neighborhoods when it comes to liquor licenses.

Although the building is mainly used as the Boston Public Schools headquarters, its ground floor has restaurant and community space.

Councilors Ruthzee Louijeune (at large) and Julia Mejia (at large) proposed what would be a home-rule petition to the state legislature, which still controls how many liquor licenses Boston can issue. The council has been unsuccessful in getting large numbers of new liquor licenses for Boston since 2014, when then Councilor Ayanna Pressley shepherded legislation that got Boston 75 new licenses, most for neighborhoods outside downtown, the North End, the Back Bay and the waterfront.

Under Louijeune's and Mejia's proposal, the licenses would be limited to restaurants in the Bolling Building and could not be resold - if a restaurant with one of the licenses closes or moves, it would have to give it back to the city to dole out to another Bolling restaurant.

However, Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson, who represents Nubian Square and the rest of Roxbury, said she opposes the proposal. She said she recognizes the argument that liquor licenses can help restaurants thrive and can boost a neighborhood's economy, but said that her Muslim faith teaches her that alcohol is "detrimental to health and well being: and that there are "healthier, more appropriate ways to grow an economy."

The measure now goes to a Council committee for study before coming back before the council for a final vote.

Neighborhoods: 
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PDF icon Request for hearing on the proposal70.7 KB

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Comments

Can someone explain where is Boston Proper please.

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Downtown, North End, South End, Chinatown, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Fenway. Might or might not include the brick warehouse area on the other side of Fort Point Channel.

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When I worked at the City, while no one had convincing evidence, when we said Boston Proper, we only included the Shawmut Peninsula, so would not have included Back Bay or Fenway.

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Anybody who uses Boston Proper to mean something between just Shawmut and all of Boston is just being exclusionary. There is no basis for including places like Back Bay if you don't also include places like Hyde Park. I personally consider proper to distinguish within city limits vs. outside city limits that otherwise seem like part of the city. Places such as Brookline and Cambridge aren't included in Boston Proper.

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I've always defined it as: Boston Proper: Shawmut peninsula and infill. Boston proper: the city of Boston including all the neighborhoods that were annexed.

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This all sounds fine, but it seems like a lot of work would go into something that would only help that specific location. Why not ask for 30 licenses, each carrying the same restrictions, that could be distributed throughout a specific area (say Roxbury and Mattapan, or however they would like to define it?) It's the same amount of work to shepherd this through and would help a lot more businesses, across many different neighborhoods.

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And the legislature snorted and did nothing.

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This seems tailor-made for cronyism, favoritism, and graft. I like the idea of a larger number of licenses for an area to encourage restaurateurs to invest where they might not otherwise. But having them tied to space in a city-owned building? Nope. Where the lease/liquor license gets passed out to friends/families/contributors? Nope.

It's worse in a future where Nubian starts to be a more vibrant destination for dining & entertainment; then new entrants have to pay citywide market rates for liquor licenses while incumbents in the Bolling Building continue to enjoy their free city-provided license.

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Let the Libertarianism flow through you.

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Four liquor licenses?
Does BPS drink that much?

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It screams "Give us special treatment." What Boston, and every other municipality in the state, should be doing is petitioning the Legislature to change the laws and just eliminate liquor license quotas entirely.

But of course, people will come up with lame excuses like "But X paid over a quarter of a million dollars for their license, so now they're out a valuable asset." Which is BS, as there's nothing in the laws that specifically allows or requires government-issued licenses to be bought, sold, or traded on the open market. So the argument the government somehow needs to compensate a business if that value goes away is total nonsense.

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If the City was a private enterprise, they would have changed liquor licensing from perpetual to term a long time ago. Auction off liquor licenses for a 2-year term plus 1-3 option years, to the highest bidder. Convert existing perpetual liquor licenses to term licenses that will expire after 10 years.

That system would keep more liquor dollars flowing into city coffers instead of the hands of investors who treat licenses like assets.

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The city has no control whatsoever regarding liquor license availability. Boston and only Boston is capped by the state legislature. Our option is to leave it be or petition the legislature in various ways for improvement. Few such petitions survive, in part, because the rest of the state doesn't have this problem and therefore doesn't care.

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I don't know know exactly how the state rules for Boston are written, but changing licensing from perpetual to term won't necessarily exceed the legislature's cap.

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