Food & Drink

North End Alcohol Licenses – By The Numbers

Alcohol licensing in the North End is dominating the agendas of neighborhood meetings. The Boston Licensing Board is set to hear several requests for extensions and expansions by North End restaurants. Many numbers are thrown around at these meetings regarding the number of licenses, types and hours. A comprehensive list of licenses has been tabulated by the North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association’s David Kubiak and Anne Pistorio. NEWRA is one of the two advisory neighborhood groups that votes on license issues, along with the Neighborhood Council (NEWNC). The Boston Licensing Board is the official regulator that makes the decisions, under State parameters set by law and enforced by the Alcohol Beverages Control Commission.

Tracking List of North End / Waterfront Alcohol Licenses, NEWRA, January 22, 2011 (pdf)

The North End / Waterfront area is bounded by North Washington Street, Boston Harbor, Christopher Columbus Park and the Greenway/Central Artery corridor.

Here are a few summary points from the tracking list:

There are currently 90 establishments in the North End/Waterfront where you can be served an alcoholic beverage and another 11 where you can buy alcohol in a retail package store. Of the 90 pouring licenses, 31 are all-alcohol (i.e., including hard liquor), 18 are malt/wine only and 41 are malt/wine/cordials. (FYI – malt is beer.) Of the 11 retail stores, 7 are beer/wine and 4 are all-alcohol. In total, there are 101 licenses (90 pouring + 11 retail).

The North End / Waterfront has more alcohol licenses than any other Boston neighborhood. With a population of about 11,000 residents, the North End has approximately 10% of the 1,025 alcohol licenses in the city despite having only 1.7% of the population (2009 estimated Boston population of 645,000).

On a per capita basis, there are 109 people living in the North End / Waterfront for each alcohol license. The neighborhood’s 109 people/license compares to 629 in the overall City of Boston or 661 in Charlestown, 711 in East Boston and 1174 in Hyde Park.

The above table shows that 41 of the 90 pouring licenses in the North End/Waterfront have a closing time later than midnight. This is the issue currently being debated on closing hour extension requests from Tresca and Monica’s.

Not every license is equal in terms of seats. There are 8,799 seats at North End / Waterfront establishments that serve alcohol, of which 5,802 pour until 1:00 a.m. and 1,519 until 2:00 a.m.

Market Value of Licenses

The fee for a beer and wine license issued by the Licensing Board is about $1,000, increasing to about $2,500 for an all-alcohol license. Beer and wine licenses have been sold (transferred) in the City of Boston for $10,000 to $100,000 each with all-alcohol licenses having been sold for $100,000 to $400,000 each.

In 2006, the State increased the number of licenses from 960 to 1,025 in the City of Boston. There are no new licenses currently available in Boston.

Logan Airport Licenses

Pending legislation on the State level may transfer another 13 existing licenses, (including 11 all-alcohol) at Logan Airport into Boston neighborhoods. There is at least one North End Restaurant (La Famiglia) that has already applied to upgrade its beer/wine license to one of the new all-alcohol licenses.

Note: This data comes from this NEWRA list of businesses which also contains the organization’s policies on these issues. These policies may differ from the Neighborhood Council, Chamber of Commerce or those put into place by the Boston Licensing Board.