BYOB in Boston?

Bring your own booze could become a reality in Boston in the near future.

At-large City Councilors Michelle Wu and Stephen Murphy have submitted a proposal to allow smaller restaurants the option of offering BYOB service to diners, reports Universal Hub.

Both Wu and Murphy want to end Boston’s ban on “BYOB” options, as a way to boost restaurants that cannot afford expensive liquor license fees.

Currently, a liquor license for beer or wine in Boston can ring up to $75,000 for some restaurants, with that number swelling up to $375,000 for all alcohol service. Boston has a staunch limit on the number of liquor licenses that it hands out, resulting in high prices for dining establishments.

“The goal is to help smaller restaurants who can’t afford a liquor license,” Wu told the Boston Globe. “Really, this is about lowering barriers to entry.”

Bob Luz, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association (MRA), said that the motion could help develop restaurants that aren’t located in popular and dynamic areas such as Newbury Street and the Seaport.

“We applaud the efforts of Councillors Wu and Murphy to encourage more small business growth within the city of Boston,” Luz said in a statement to BostInno. “While BYOB licenses are currently prohibited in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, they have been shown to help very small restaurants in certain areas of the Commonwealth when implemented effectively and carefully.”

Luz continued, “The MRA believes that any BYOB policy should be limited to certain neighborhoods and to restaurants of a certain size to encourage growth in under-served areas. By limiting scope, we can shield existing license owners from any unintended negative consequences of unbalanced competition.”

If the proposal clears, it would then turn to the Boston Licensing Board in order to establish rules and regulations for BYOB options within the city. Mayor Marty Walsh seemed willing to look at the idea but not overly enthused.

“It could be a game changer in the way we do business in Boston,” Walsh told the Boston Globe. “We want to look at it, but I know for a fact I am not interested in opening it up across the board in the city of Boston. We have a lot of restaurant and bar owners who invest heavily in the liquor licenses for their premises.”

Among the factors that the board would have to sort through include determining what types of alcohol could be brought in by consumers, as well as whether restaurants can charge patrons for “corkage fees” for drinking their own booze.

While BYOB has not been adopted in Boston, it has become a popular alternative for diners in Philadelphia, Chicago and some cities and towns in Massachusetts.

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