Especially amid the hustle and bustle of the holidays, people need casual common spaces where they can connect with friends or relatives over a beer or a glass of wine. The home-rule petition that Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley shepherded through the Boston City Council this month would help create and preserve those spaces. The measure, which would ask the Legislature to give Boston the power to offer new alcohol licenses for restaurants under certain conditions, now awaits Mayor Menino's signature. But Menino has given no indication that he'll sign it.
New restaurants bring neighborhoods to life, as Menino well knows: Thanks in part to his administration's past support for new licenses in the Seaport District, a number of local restaurant chains have set up new outlets in the area, which now hums with activity. But Menino, a non-drinker, takes a dim view of the role of alcohol in the city's social sphere.
There are, of course, good reasons to be fearful of excessive drinking, and alcohol licensing alone isn't a solution to neighborhood economic woes. But storefront restaurants selling $8 glasses of wine to boost their margins aren't a major engine of disruptive behavior or alcohol abuse, and fostering the growth of low-key social spaces in Boston creates alternatives to — not a slippery slope toward — rowdy clubs. Signing Pressley's home-rule petition would be an expression of confidence in the city's ability to manage its own affairs in a prudent way, and would make a fitting final holiday gift from Menino to Boston.