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New Boston liquor license plan to target neighborhoods

Such neighborhoods as Roxbury’s Dudley Square could see new establishments with liquor licenses, under the plan put forth by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff/File

City officials will lay out plans Monday for a significant expansion of Boston’s liquor licenses, proposing 152 of them, including dozens to help attract nightlife to such neighborhoods as Mattapan, Roxbury, and East Boston.

The proposal — which is twice as large as a 2014 expansion — would give such communities five liquor licenses annually over a three-year period, in a move intended to boost economic development by bringing more people out for dinner and drinks later into the evening.

The proposed measure would also limit the number of the new licenses awarded to Back Bay and the North End. And it would grant licenses to sell beer, wine, and liquor at South Boston’s popular Lawn on D at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center as well as the Boston Center for the Arts in the South End.


“This is about growth in the industry, but it is also about growth in the neighborhoods,’’ said Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who will file his measure with the city clerk Monday.

The proposal will need the approval of the City Council and the state Legislature.

It would expand upon a 2014 liquor license state law that gave Boston the authority to award an additional 75 liquor licenses over a three-year period that ended last year. Sixty of those were specifically restricted to seven neighborhoods — Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill, and Roxbury — and business districts in other communities.

Another batch of licenses went to establishments citywide. The law sought to make liquor licenses more affordable — at less than $3,000 — and attainable to small business owners who had been shut out of the licensing market.

But officials acknowledge there were problems with that law.

For instance, savvy business owners — including the Hilton Garden Inn in East Boston — used the law to snatch up licenses while Mattapan businesses floundered.


Mattapan has no restaurants that serve alcohol, and no one from the neighborhood applied for a license.

All but six of the 75 licenses from 2014 have been awarded, officials have said.

City officials said the proposed new licenses would allow the administration to continue fostering neighborhood vitality and economic development in “historically underserved neighborhoods.”

New restaurants offer residents local, affordable options in “outer neighborhoods” and provide entrepreneurs an easier entry point into Boston’s restaurant market, city officials said.

Walsh said his proposal will give small businesses “in every corner of our city a better opportunity to grow and thrive.

“This balanced approach to licensing ensures neighborhoods historically disadvantaged by the liquor license process will receive their fair share of licenses, while also providing an option for larger establishments to receive licenses without hurting our small businesses,’’ he said.

In details revealed by city officials, the proposal seeks 152 liquor licenses to be phased in through 2019.

The city is again targeting Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, Mattapan, and Roxbury, giving each three all-alcohol and two malt and wine licenses per year for three years.

Unlike under the 2014 law, the licenses will remain available to those neighborhoods even if they are not claimed by the time the expansion period ends, the mayor said.

“Let’s just say that after the fourth year, Mattapan has no licenses. . . . Those 15 [licenses awarded] over the three years stay in the Licensing Board for Mattapan to be used by Mattapan in the future,’’ Walsh said.


The business districts in other communities will each get five licenses a year.

Walsh hopes the changes will encourage liquor licenses in Mattapan, where the city has done beautification projects in Mattapan Square and has been working with businesses.

He said the costs of starting a venture with dinner and wine on the menu might be too much for some entrepreneurs in a neighborhood with limited nightlife. But he said the experience of other neighborhoods gives him cause for optimism.

“I think ultimately it comes down to the cost of doing business of getting permitted and building out a space for a restaurant,’’ Walsh said. “We are starting to see restaurants coming into [other areas] that they never had before. We are starting to see more and more restaurants coming to Fields Corner. We are going to see more restaurants to other parts of Boston. And we are going to see it in Mattapan as well.”

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.