The Boston Licensing Board today approved regulations that will let small restaurants without liquor licenses let their customers bring in beer and wine.
But there's a catch: The board now has to design online and paper application forms for potentially eligible restaurants. Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini promised City Council President Michelle Wu she and her staff would expedite the process, which she estimated could mean restaurants could apply by springtime.
Chris Lin, owner of Seven Star Street Bistro on Belgrade Avenue in Roslindale, told the board he can't wait: His holiday season in his new dining room was dead, because nobody wants to have a holiday celebration without something to drink, and his business overall is down dramatically since he sold off the expensive beer-and-wine license he had purchased last year.
Under the regulations, only restaurants without existing liquor licenses in neighborhoods that don't have a plethora of drink-serving restaurants would be eligible for one of the new BYOB permits: All restaurants downtown and in the North End, South End, Bay Village, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Chinatown, the Seaport and the West End would continue to be banned from offering BYOB.
Diners at restaurants who get one of the $400 BYOB licenses would be allowed to bring in wine bottles no larger than 750 ml. Although the board initially proposed banning beer drinkers from bringing in beer bottles larger than 16 ounces - and no more than 64 ounces in total - the board amended that to allow growlers as well.
Harder liquors and cordials would remain banned at such restaurants. Also, patrons could not go out for more beer or wine during their visits. Restaurants would be barred from charging a corkage fee - and would have to stop letting in people with alcohol at 11 p.m. Also, no drinks with brunch: BYOB cannot start earlier than 5 p.m.
Wu said she was "very thrilled" to finally see the idea - which she and then Councilor Steve Murphy first proposed some two years ago - get this close to actually being put into effect. "I'm eager to see this become another tool for economic development in the city," she said.
But when Pulgini said nobody could get a license until the board designed and put up an online application form, Wu asked if there were any way the board could begin accepting applications on paper immediately, to help out restaurants who have been champing at the bit of all these months. "We'll get this done as soon as we can," Pulgini said.