The Boston Licensing Board today approved a request by the owners of the former Bella Luna and the current Haven for a liquor license with which to re-open the Bella Luna space at the Brewery complex on Amory Street - if it turns out the board has one to dole out.
The board voted 2-1 to grant the new Haven at the Brewery a "neighborhood" liquor license, if one's around. Unlike other liquor licenses, these cannot be re-sold, and so can't be used as collateral for a loan, but have to be given back to the city should the operators close up. In 2014, the state legislature let Boston issue a number of new "neighborhood" licenses aimed at encouraging restaurant entrepreneurs open up in neighborhoods that were not overrun with big-budget national chains that could afford the six-figure prices of open-market licenses in a city with a state-imposed cap on the total number of licenses.
Under plans announced in August, Waddleton's original Haven, in Hyde Square, would remain open, but he and Mainzer would re-open the Bella Luna space, which closed in March, 2020, with its original lineup of food - with some new Scottish offerings - live music and events.
Licensing Board members Liam Curran and Keeana Saxon said that at a hearing on Wednesday, the new restaurant in the old space more than proved the public need - with enthusiastic support from Jamaica Plain residents to re-open what had been a popular local establishment. "It was a popular place, unfortunately, it couldn't make it through the pandemic, I don't know why, businesswise," Curran said.
Board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce cast the lone no vote. She said she has nothing against the new restaurant serving alcohol and agreed that the previous Bella Luna showed a public need for a liquor license there.
But she said she but that she felt restricted neighborhood licenses should be reserved for start-up restaurateurs and that if Mainzer and Waddleton want to serve alcohol, they should first try to obtain a liquor license on the open market, where, at least before the pandemic hit, they were often going for $300,000 or more, on top of the licensing board's annual fee.
During the same meeting, the board unanimously rejected a request from a 22-seat restaurant on Hudson Street in Chinatown for a "neighborhood" beer and wine license, saying that, unlike the Brewery proposal, the new space was very small, in a neighborhood that already has a large number of liquor licenses.