Having reached its cap of 91 pouring alcohol licenses in the neighborhood, the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) held a discussion last week on how the membership should consider new applications from this point. The 91 count includes two licenses supported by NEWRA, but not yet in use (“Locale” at 350 Hanover St. and “Pauli’s at 65 Salem St.).
Co-chair of NEWRA’s Zoning, Licensing & Construction (ZLC) Committee, Victor Brogna, reviewed NEWRA’s last twelve months of votes with regards to alcohol licenses. The group voted on 8 requests in the past year and sent letters to the Boston Licensing Board. Out of the 8 applications considered, NEWRA voted to support 6 and oppose 2 requests.
A lengthy discussion was led by ZLC Committee Co-chair, David Kubiak, focusing on whether individual applications should still be considered at NEWRA meetings while the number of alcohol licenses remains at the 91 cap. Most attendees thought the cap should stand “as is” without further consideration of new applications. However, some wanted to have a chance to evaluate and vote on individual upcoming applications.
Quality of life and noise issues were raised as the primary concern with the number of licenses in the densely populated North End. Spread over just 0.27 square miles, the North End has approximately 9% of the city’s total licenses but less than 2% of the population. Of course, much of the alcohol consumed in the neighborhood is by visitors and tourists. Resident Mary McGee said, “the number of restaurants and bars creates an atmosphere where its ok to behave badly.”
City Councilor-At-Large Ayanna Pressley participated in the discussion, having recently introduced an order for City Council consideration to raise the number of alcohol licenses in the city. However, she was clear that increasing the number of licenses in the North End is not her intent. Rather, she wants to support economic development in other neighborhoods and more transparency on how licenses are given out. “I don’t want to create a Bourbon Street,” she said, “but I want to know why the Licensing Board is choosing one applicant versus another.”
In a 2011 analysis, NEWRA estimated 109 residents per alcohol license in the North End as compared to 629 for the overall city. The North End’s 91 alcohol licenses compares to 23 in Charlestown and 29 in Beacon Hill. Mr. Kubiak also noted the North End has nearly 9,000 seats where alcohol can be served, not much below the 10,200 total population of the neighborhood. A Bostonography mapping analysis identified the North End as rivaling Harvard Square in terms of alcohol license density.
NEWRA’s cap policy is advisory only to the Licensing Board and is not necessarily recognized by the North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council, the other neighborhood group that also advises city authorities on licenses.
No final decision was made at the meeting. NEWRA’s executive committee will consider options to bring forward to the membership at a future meeting. Details of NEWRA’s policy and a breakdown of North End alcohol licenses was handed out at the meeting, shown below.