On January 1, 2016, the number of off-premises (or “package store”) liquor licenses any person or combination of persons will be authorized to legally hold in Massachusetts, directly or indirectly, will increase from five (5) to seven (7). While the increase will go into effect as of New Year’s Day, there was some confusion as to the mechanics to be used to go about getting a 6th or 7th license.
Normally, any prospective liquor licensee files an application with the local licensing authorities. Notice of the application is then published and abutters are notified of the application, a public hearing is held at the local level, and then the application is forwarded to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (“ABCC”) for their consideration and approval as well. Generally, at best, there is a two to three month lag between the initial filing of an application and actually receiving issuance of a license. Accordingly, in order to receive a license as soon after January 1 as possible, some prospective multiple licensees had filed applications with local licensing authorities in 2015, hoping to gain approvals in advance of January 1 and be ready to open as soon after January 1, 2016 as possible.
However, the ABCC recently issued an Advisory clarifying the procedures to be followed. In the Advisory, the ABCC basically said, “Not so fast!” The ABCC says that any person seeking a 6th or 7th liquor license cannot file an application before January 1, 2016. Since January 4 is the first business day in 2016, don’t look for companies that already hold 5 licenses to be open for business in additional locations until later in January or, more likely, February of the new year.