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Restaurants aim to kill beer gardens dead

Boston Magazine reports on the war in the legislature. One of the reasons cited by restaurants to kill beer gardens is the high cost of liquor licenses. When Boston officials tried to get the legislature to let Boston issue more liquor licenses, restaurants objected because they didn't want to see the value of their investment in the licenses go down.

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The fix here ought to be that this is a wake-up call for our licensing system for alcohol - no reason that licenses to serve beer should be limited and cost insane amounts of money - but in reality what will probably happen is that outdoor beer gardens will be killed and nothing will replace them.

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but I think you're right. a shame if it does happen. those are great places on the Greenway that are often kid and dog friendly too.

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because all I see there are giant obstacles, occupying (what used to be) public space, all so a private company can make profit.

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The private company pays fees and taxes so the Greenway can stand on its own and stop needing assistance from Beacon Hill to the tune of millions per year.

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Provincetown where I have my second house has more liquor licenses per capita than anywhere else in Massachusetts, and believe me, no restaurant that serves a decent product is hurting for business.

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that in the end, winds up privatizing every last bit of public space.

it's public space, of course it's going to get public funding. get over it.

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It's a place for people to gather and come together. I think they're a wonderful idea. Also, there are plenty of alternate ways around them for pedestrians. Also also, profit is a good thing.

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Every tiny little park or public square in cities like Copenhagen or Lisbon have cafes or carts that sell alcohol. And yet restaurants stay in business there! If the Massachusetts Restaurant Association kills off beer gardens I will be happy to boycott their members and vote against any politician that helps them.

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When we told a bartender in Amsterdam how much a liquor license in Boston costs he just looked at us. At the time he said licenses there go for about 1200 euro. Bar/Cafes are everywhere and each one is packed every single day/night.

You shouldn't have to take out a mortgage to sell alcohol. We are never going to get small eateries to open outside the center of the city until this changes...they just won't make it.

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Just guessing, but in those cities they don't have an artificial cap on liquor licenses and allow free market buying and selling of said licenses. They might not require a "license" at all to serve beer and wine.

This is an idiotic problem which exists only in Boston since every other city in the Commonwealth is free to issue as many or few licenses as they see fit.

What's worse is that representatives from outside Boston get to vote on state laws which affect only the residents of Boston. Why should a rep from East Longmeadow have a say on the regulations specifically for Boston? Oh that's right, because corruption. Reps from outside of Boston are free to accept donations (bribes) from Boston restaurants knowing it won't impact their district so there's absolutely no downside. There's also no reason for them to change the system.

If you care about things like this, contact your rep. This is particularly true if you DON'T live in Boston since these are the people who will ultimately make the decisions.

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The state control of liquor licenses is not due to corruption. It goes way back to when the Irish were becoming the majority of Boston and starting to rule it politically. The Protestant Brahmins still ruled at the state level and instituted regulations that let them maintain some control over cities where the Irish were taking over. Also, I'm pretty sure that Boston is not the only city subject to having to go to the legislature to increase their licenses. I think it is one of only a few where licenses can be bought and sold in the marketplace, thus inflating their value out of the reach of many small restaurant operators. This is the crux of the problem. The state is not responsible for that, it is decided at the city level.

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Europe, Europe, Europe! This how they do it in (fill-in boutique Euro nation state) !

Please: Everyone who incessantly references small boutique western Euro nation states; move there already.

And things aren't nearly as Rosy (sp?) in these Euro cities as some people like to make out. The world is a very complex place.

I agree our municipal licensing laws are convoluted and archaic.

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You mad bro? They have been doing this far longer than we have and it seems to work really well. Maybe if we should take a look at how and why it does work rather than have a temper tantrum telling people to go move there.

Just because we have always done things one way doesn't mean it should continue to work that way. It's called evolving.

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Not a big fan of facts, huh? You prefer ignorance it seems. Europe invented the beer garden, so yeah, I brought it up. And Copenhagen has its act together better than any American city so we should emulate it instead of remaining ignorant like you. If you are tired of Europe I could mention somewhere else. You can walk around with an open container of alcohol in Japan and it doesn't cause problems. Bars and restaurants can serve alcohol super early and super late in Tokyo. Is that better for you, sweetie?

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I posted a negative comment but there's enough negativity out there.

To put it neutrally, Copenhagen sounds like a great city but also one which struggles with the same issues of gentrification and exclusion as Boston. That is all.

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Alcohol isn't a profit center for restaurants. In fact, it's usually less expensive in Europe to order a glass of the local beer or house wine than it is to order a soft drink, and the refills on the latter are rarely complimentary. Then again, they also don't have our ridiculously Puritanical laws regarding the consumption of alcohol, and yet somehow the vast majority of the population manages to drink responsibly there.

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Well that's what people do in this city. Live in a Boston bubble and never realize how silly some things are once you step out into the rest of the world.

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The market should determine the number if licenses. Have the gov give them out and revoke if the establishment violates the rules but the number should be determined by demand. If too many are given out the restaurants may go out of business thus reducing the number of establishments serving alcohol. That is if you only go to a restaurant based on alcohol and not food. Worried about too many bars, the dilution of patrons will ensure that only the popular ones survive.

Keeping the number artificially high to prop up a legacy business is not good business for the city or new and innovative companies.

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Cambridge devalued liquor-licenses years ago.
https://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/news/20171214/how-did-liquor-licenses-...

I do sympathize with people who recently spent hundreds of thousands on licenses, only to see the value evaporate so quickly.

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Killed the resurrection of Happy Hour.

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It's all about the Benjamins...Alcohol vendors know that if they keep the electronic music loud in their enclosed spaces that alcohol sales increase by about 30%. People prefer the beer gardens because they are free to socialize without the sonic torture.

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Boston has the same problem with taxi medallions. An artificial scarcity turns a licensing mode into an asset which restricts entry into the industry and limits competition and innovation. The losers are the consumers.

Licences should be earned, not bought.

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You follow the rules? Are up to code? Submit your application? You should be able to serve booze. The idea of artificially limiting competition in this industry is absurd. If you open your restaurant/cafe with booze, and you're a better product than the person next door, they close and you take their business. If they're better, you're out of business.

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Not as if I can sell my driver's licence - or as if it will appreciate in value in the next couple of years.

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And yet, they have been used as assets for 40+ years, whether you think they should or not.

The faster the system changes, the more drastic the disparity between winners (new businesses) and losers (existing businesses). Consumers come out okay either way - they either buy drinks outside in a park, or don't buy drinks outside in a park. The impact on businesses is much greater.

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True, but assets exposed to significant regulatory risk. The price paid should reflect the risk that the license cap is increased or eliminated.

I'm sensitive to business owners facing devaluation of these assets but only to an extent.

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THIS ISN'T ABOUT YOU

This is about what people want.

People want these amenities.

People don't want your stupid monopolistic practices and mediocre crap food served at tourist prices.

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Would help them to protect their investment in perpetuity? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Comments here are great too. I like it when people recognize my points.

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You mean common sense opinions shared by pretty much everyone with a brain and no conflict of interest?

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It's a great concept. After a day stuck in the A/C'd office it was good to be outside in warm open air with a beer. The concept was good while it lasted.

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On the surface this battle seems to smack of Colonial Era -- BLUE LAWS

Reality is its Colonial but of a different era

First the Legislature having control over the details of how Boston deals with Beer is all about the old Yankee's last Bastion of power -- the State House as the Irish took over the City

The Yankees could drink wine, Scotch and fancy cocktails in their clubs, Hotel Bars and upscale restaurants like Locke-Ober -- but they needed to keep control on the Irish having a beer after work

So Boston had a limit imposed by the Legislature as to how many Pubs / Taverns could be able to serve alcohol

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This is why we can't have nice things. Why is everyone afraid of a little competition all of a sudden?

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Also see, back from 2012:

Channel 5 News: Dave Andelman complains about food trucks hurting brick-and-mortar restaurant business
https://www.chowhound.com/post/channel-5-news-dave-andelman-complains-fo...

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Dave Andelman was right!!1! Seven years later and food trucks have put all the restaurants out of business. Just try finding a grain bowl or hot pot in this city. You can't. Every last restaurant closed down because of the food truck epidemic. They tore through this town like plague of locusts.

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I remember a coworker suggested we get a gift for the boss for a special occasion. I said sure. we suggested an Phantom Gourmet gift card. I said absolutely not! Wouldn't give those parasites a penny.

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Sorry Boston isn't up to par for you. Owl's Nest beer garden was a blast last summer... again, sorry it wasn't good enough for you.

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If I’m not mistaken this was one of the ways the suburban power structure (WASPs) were going to control the Irish in Boston 100+ years ago - by preventing growth and consolidation of power and influence from innkeepers, saloon owners and bars in general. Alcohol makes money and poitical power! Home rule now!

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Restaurants also have the luxury of being able to make a profit on the 200+ days per year when it's not nice to hang out outside in Boston. Cry me a river.

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Food trucks have the luxury of packing up and driving off if the weather is awful or the crowd small. Also to be at special events where they know they'll have a good crowd.

Restaurants also have the luxury of being able to make a profit on the 200+ days per year when it's not nice to hang out outside in Boston. Cry me a river.

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So what you're saying is restaurants, which already have the capital and supply lines set up, should just invest in a couple of food trucks for even more profit?

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the legislature could do these two things

1) allow cities and towns to issue as many or few liquor licenses as they want
2) make all liquor licenses non-transferrable. its yours as long as you use it and follow the rules and pay your yearly fee. If you don't it just goes away.

we wouldn't have to hear about licenses being too expensive ever again

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Not a fan of being roped in a pen like cattle and drinking from plastic cups.

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1. people meet at the beer gardens, then go to restaurants for food later
2. people go to the beer gardens when they would otherwise have just gone home

There is no "competition" that I see - only whining about things that don't happen.

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Another manifestation of the same old problem; liquor licenses are an artificial commodity which people have fairly invested in. We spend year after year hamstrung by this problem losing economic vitality not to mention civic resources engineering mini-solutions. How about if the city and state determined a reasonable market value and compensated license holders for their asset? And at the same time make all liquor licenses simple permits to sell alcohol at a location and not owned by the holders, which the city could issue to any suitable business.
I haven’t gotten into the math but there are 1,118 licenses. If you paid them all $10K per year for ten years that’s $11.2M per year. Split between the Commonwealth and city not a huge number to put this behind us. Maybe that number is low but even double it and I think it’s a worthwhile investment.

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Suppose that the Legislature was to grant authority [that's something that needs to be worked on] to the cities and towns to issue temporary beer and wine licences and at the same time sunset the existing licenses for beer and wine over the next decade

Beer and Wine gardens, pop-up taverns, pubs, etc could apply to the local community for one of two classes of licenses to sell beer and / or wine -- or anything composed of beer and or wine and other non-alcoholic elements, e.g. Sangria, flavored ice, flavored ice cream, etc.:

  1. annual and renewable
  2. 10 year renewable

Neither class transferable

at the end of the to year period all existing licences would become 10 year

the existing permits for licquor and mixted drinks would continue in force

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Ah, it's the old "video killed the radio star".

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