City Floats 15 JP-Only Alcohol Licenses

CJ Reese, who like a large majority of the staff lives in or very near JP, tends bar.

Chris Helms

File photo: CJ Reese, who like a large majority of the staff lives in or very near JP, tends bar at the Frogmore, which gained a full alcohol license in March 2016.

Jamaica Plain businesses would get five new booze licenses a year for three years under a proposal floated Monday.

Mayor Marty Walsh and City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley announced the plan, which would add a total of 105 licenses to JP, Hyde Park, Roxbury, East Boston, Dorchester, Mattapan and Mission Hill.

In a holdover from the days when the state did not trust Boston to distribute its own booze licenses, a restauranteur faces six-digit costs and Byzantine rules to serve vodka, stout or chardonnay. All licenses are tightly regulated and involve approvals at both the state and city levels.

Pressley, taking up liquor licenses as an economic development issue, shepherded a similar program through in 2014. Several JP restaurants benefited from that effort, which added 75 liquor licenses to Boston neighborhoods outside downtown.

“This is the next natural step in our push to reduce disparities in neighborhood sit-down restaurants across the city,” Pressley said in an announcement of the new effort.

The plan also has several provisions that would not affect JP, such as “umbrella licenses” for developments more than 500,000 square feet. As Universal Hub pointed out, this would extend the arrangement enjoyed by Logan Airport to other large complexes such as Seaport Square in Southie. The total number of licenses added city-wide would be 152.

The JP-only licenses would be doled out five per year from 2017 through 2019. The mix would be two all-alcohol licenses and three malt-and-wine permits. Like other such licenses, these would not be transferable.

The getting and losing of booze licenses is a big deal for JP’s restaurants. Here are a few recent stories we’ve done on the subject:

  • Lisa Marie Garver

    Why are disparities bad? THere are places where bars are plenty, and they arent great places to live. One of JP’s main qualities is that it gets sleepy after 10 and therefore, very quiet and consequently, more safe. More people who want peace and are spending more time working than partying live here. The people that do party, are all intellectuals/activists and reasonable in my guesstimate. As opposed to college parties in Mission Hill and/or Allston.

    Granted, I can understand resturants wanting licenses because its a big draw/money-maker. But I really hope that this doesn’t mean 5 NEW licenses for NEW establishments because we already have multiple “sit-down” restauraunts and I think a lot of them serve alcohol. Infact the bars we have would probably lose business.

    • ds

      …are you serious? You hit on exactly why the disparity is bad: alcohol licenses are a major factor in how successful a restaurant is and how much money it can make, and, since the distribution of the licenses is dependent on money and political connections, those licenses go to large restaurants in downtown neighborhoods. This means fewer black-owned restaurants, fewer latino-owned restaurants, fewer women-owned restaurants, fewer small sit-down restaurants in a cozy little corner off a side street, fewer nightclubs playing the kinds of music popular with minority clienteles, fewer restaurants and clubs overall serving and employing the people in the neighborhood in which you live and other neighborhoods in the same situation.

      Your argument frames JP as an ideal and any possibility of touching that static perfection as an attack, which I don’t even know how to argue against. It’s bonkers. JP, like most anywhere, is a place of potentials, and in particular it’s a place that has been shaped by outside forces using tools of economic oppression. Issuing more licenses to JP gives residents a tiny bit more control in shaping the kind of neighborhood they want to live in, and means that not every alcohol license has to go to somewhere with 100 seats that stays open until 2.

    • GoatWatch

      Aren’t college parties, by definition, full of intellectuals?

  • Robert Ellis

    The restaurants that get the licenses should be required to be affordable to those making 25% AMI.