On July 1st the Massachusetts State Senate included a proposal in an economic development bill to remove the limits on liquor licenses a town can award to local businesses. Under the current system the number of licenses that are available in a community is based on population. This is sometimes referred to as the quota system and is also used in other states.
According to the Boston Globe, “Walpole, Mansfield, Canton, and Milton are currently at their liquor-license limits, while Foxborough, Hingham, Norwood, and Wareham have petitioned the Legislature to add licenses as they have grown.” While some towns have petitioned the Legislature to add licenses beyond their quota, other towns like Brockton have unused licenses.
The battle over the quota system has intensified over the last two years since Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley started to work on the issue in 2012. Since then the idea of abandoning the quota system has taken hold in City Hall but has yet to be completely embraced by the State House.
One of the biggest advocates in favor of the quota system is current members of the restaurant industry who may see their license as one of their most valuable assets. Under the quota system a license in Boston may be resold for $300,000 or more and can either act as a hedge against an economic downturn or collateral for future loans.
For now, the matter will be continued to be debated in the State House even while it is publicly supported by the Governor.