Over the past several days I have heard from many community members about their concerns with legislation in the Senate that could impact beer gardens by reducing the number of special, “one-day” permits per business.
While I did not draft this bill, I signed on to it because I think it’s important to look at how our “one-day” licenses should be used. At the moment, they are supposed to be limited to 30, but recently companies have worked around that rule to essentially access unlimited “one-day” licenses. This is how we have been licensing beer gardens to operate for months at a time and it’s inefficient and unfair.
“One-day” licenses are a flat $75-$150 fee, with no public process or hearing. That is fine for one day occasions, as they were designed, but for seasonal operations we should have a system in place that reflects the true nature of the license. By comparison, full liquor licenses for restaurants are often valued between $250,000 and $500,000 on the private market.
I have worked with my colleagues over the past several years to create more licenses, reduce the burdens on local businesses seeking licenses, and improve access for consumers. I continue to support efforts to create new liquor licenses, including a City of Boston Home Rule Petition filed in January that would create 200 over the next 3 years. I have called on my city colleagues to include in that petition standards for a seasonal license, complete with fair guidelines and fees, following the similar public process that other licenses go through. If that home rule petition reaches the State Legislature without seasonal licenses, I plan to amend it to include them.
I have heard from community members concerned about lack of public process around “one-day” licenses. I have heard from businesses that feel burdened by getting an individual license each day, paying daily fees and relying on clerks to approve each day. I have also heard from restaurants that rightfully point out that they incur costs much higher than $75 a day to maintain their licensure, and believe the playing field is tilted.
I enjoy beer gardens as much as anyone and love the vibrancy they bring to our communities. My intent in cosponsoring this legislation was not to ban, remove, reduce, or harm their operation. It was to discuss modernizing the licensing process and creating seasonal licenses should be a part. Continuing to use special “one-day” licenses for what we know are semi-permanent, seasonal operations is illogical and benefits no one.
My goal is to achieve access for consumers, and promote smart economic development for all sorts of businesses, not stifle successful industries.
I hope that answers your questions, and please feel free to reach out to our office should you have any more concerns. This bill will also have a public hearing (Date TBD) and I welcome you to come participate.