fb-pixelJust days after announcing it, Healey shelves liquor license plan Skip to main content

Healey shelves, for now, a proposal to strip lawmakers of their control of liquor licenses

Governor Maura Healey on Friday announced she would file a proposal that would have allowed local officials — not state lawmakers — to set caps on the number of liquor licenses distributed in cites and towns. On Monday, her administration said she was shelving the plan, for now.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Just days after first unveiling it, Governor Maura Healey on Monday shelved a proposal that would have allowed local officials — not state lawmakers — to set caps on the number of liquor licenses distributed in their city or town, long a contentious issue among Boston officials.

A spokesperson for Healey told reporters Monday the governor was not including the proposal in a sweeping package of municipal changes she intended to file that she first announced Friday. The bill would allow towns and cities to raise their taxes on hotel stays, car excise payments, and meals by as much as 33 percent to help bolster their local coffers. It also would make permanent a raft of pandemic-era rules affecting restaurants and other businesses.


For decades, towns and cities have needed legislative approval to issue liquor licenses to restaurants and other businesses beyond a certain number. Healey’s proposal would have changed that by allowing towns and cities to set their own quotas, in effect bypassing the home-rule petition process under which municipalities need legislative sign-off on a host of policy changes, both big and small.

Karissa Hand, a Healey spokesperson, said Monday that Healey still supports the idea but the administration needed more time to get the “language right.” She did not indicate when Healey could file the proposal.

“We continue to support the concept. . . . [But] we decided we wanted more time to work with the language,” Hand told reporters shortly after Healey and legislative leaders held a news conference at the State House following their semi-regular closed-door meeting.

Hand declined to say if any initial opposition prompted Healey to scuttle the proposal. But the developments came just moments after Senate President Karen E. Spilka told reporters she personally backed Healey’s idea, saying she’d be open to “making some changes.”


“Honestly, I never understood why the Legislature approves them to begin with,” the Ashland Democrat said.

Sarah Blodgett, a spokesperson for Spilka, later told The Boston Globe that Healey’s staff had informed members of Spilka’s staff about their intention to shelve the proposal before they addressed reporters. Spilka is still in favor of removing the Legislature from the liquor license process, Blodgett said.

Boston in particular has pushed for years to expand the number of liquor licenses it can distribute, arguing it would help right an imbalance that has favored mostly white neighborhoods and give more opportunities to entrepreneurs of color in majority Black and Latino neighborhoods.

When Healey announced the proposal on Friday, local officials cheered the change, including in Boston. Ricardo Patrón, a spokesperson for Mayor Michelle Wu, said the current system leaves licenses concentrated in only a few areas, harming the city’s economy and “the vitality of our neighborhoods.”

“We are grateful to see this issue highlighted as one affecting all communities across the Commonwealth,” Patrón said in a statement Friday.

But it drew opposition from a leading Boston lawmaker in the House. Majority leader Michael J. Moran, a Brighton Democrat, told the Globe that he personally has concerns about giving too much power over liquor licenses to the mayor of the city, even though he is a Wu supporter.

“There’s a reason we have these checks and balances in the government,” Moran said.

House Speaker Ron Mariano did not address a question about his stance on stripping legislative control of liquor licenses at Monday’s news conference.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him @mattpstout.