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Boston City Council members skeptical on BYOB

BYOB in Boston restaurants? Not so fast.

Skepticism greeted a proposal introduced Wednesday in the City Council that would allow diners to “bring your own bottle” of beer or wine to small restaurants.

City Councilor Ayanna Pressley previously championed expanding the number of liquor licenses in Boston, citing it as an economic development tool for underserved neighborhoods. But Pressley spoke critically Wednesday of the BYOB proposal, articulating a litany of concerns.

Addressing her colleagues in the City Council chamber, Pressley suggested that BYOB could create a two-tiered system in which liquor licenses remained in more affluent neighborhoods and BYOB would be relegated to Dorchester, Hyde Park, Mattapan, and Roxbury.


Pressley said she had concerns about how BYOB would be regulated, and feared the practice would lower the cost of dining and, consequently, reduce tips for wait staff.

City Council President Bill Linehan also expressed concern that BYOB could hurt established restaurateurs who invest in liquor licenses, which cost up to $75,000 for wine and beer, and $375,000 for a full bar.

Other councilors endorsed the measure, which was referred to the Government Operations Committee. It will be the subject of a yet-to-be-scheduled public hearing.

City Councilors Michelle Wu and Stephen Murphy proposed the initiative. The goal, they said, is to encourage the growth of small restaurants in neighborhoods that do not have vibrant dining scenes.

The BYOB phenomenon has flourished in other cities, including Philadelphia and Chicago, and was recently adopted in Brookline. BYOB establishments have operated successfully alongside restaurants with liquor licenses.

Proponents say BYOB makes it easier for budding chefs to open neighborhood spots. But the BYOB idea could spark a backlash from established restaurateurs who make significant investments in liquor licenses.

The measure would need the approval of the City Council and the signature of Mayor Martin J. Walsh. In an interview last week with the Globe, Walsh expressed skepticism about BYOB but said he was “open to the idea.”


Andrew Ryan can be reached at andrew.ryan@globe.com Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.