The whiter Boston neighborhoods are, the easier it can be to find a licensed restaurant, shows report

There are other damning statistics: Just According to the report, 2 percent of local liquor license holders identify as Black in a city that has 24 Black residents percent of the population.

A key Problem: Boston doesn’t have its own destiny in its own hands when it comes to the liquor license cap. The process of expanding the number of liquor licenses statewide is controlled almost entirely on Beacon Hill, an antiquated holdover from a time when Protestant lawmakers feared that if left to their own devices, Boston’s Irish Catholic leaders would take the city with them Alcohol would flood whiskey.

There is an “undeniable pattern of well-capitalized companies buying up neighborhood independent operators and closing their bars,” the report said. In other words, many Boston restaurants are currently playing a zero-sum game due to the city’s on-site liquor license cap. Every new hotel or steakhouse dumping drinks in the seaport usually means that elsewhere in town a neighborhood pub or mom-and-pop restaurant has gone under. The new spots had to get their transferable liquor licenses from somewhere.

“Alcohol licenses are just another government-controlled commodity, following a well-known pattern from Boston’s history in which the city and the Commonwealth have actively participated — or at least been complicit — in divesting and siphoning resources from neighborhoods of color.” , the report closes.

The report’s findings come as some councilmen are pushing Beacon Hill to allow them to distribute hundreds more licenses across the city, particularly in neighborhoods of color, to address this very injustice.

City councils plan to issue up to 200 non-transferable alcohol licenses over a three-year period; all would be distributed in Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury and Hyde Park. Their proposed Home Rule petition, which requires Beacon Hill’s approval, also calls for universality Licenses in Boston increase 10 percent over ten years.

The proposal, which could change in upcoming council working sessions, would eventually need to be sent to Beacon Hill to become a reality. There, state authorities are often slow to respond, if at all, to Boston home rule petitions.

Other advice The proposal calls for the issuance of four additional liquor licenses for the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Nubian Square in Roxbury, the heart of one of Boston’s most diverse communities, and one for the historic Strand Theater in Dorchester’s Uphams Corner.

On Thursday, councilors and attorneys munched on those ideas during a virtual hearing where Nick Korn, an OFFSITE partner, gave a high-level overview of his firm’s findings in the new report.

OFFSITE offers a number of suggestions on how to fix the imbalance, including increasing the license cap and Authorize the city’s licensing committee to issue restricted licenses in neighborhoods until this threshold is met.

For example, if you set a goal of one license for every 750 people, you would get 367 more Licenses in 11 neighborhoods, and one per 1,000 residents would net 217 more in 10 districts.

OFFSITE also claims that restricted licenses do not are cannibalizing the transferable license market, a major criticism from some restaurateurs, who in the past feared they were undermining the value of their own licenses, on which many have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. The report claims restricted licenses that cannot be sold from restaurant to restaurant have not significantly impacted transferable license prices. Anecdotally, the latter are currently between 400,000 and 450,000 US dollars in the city. But those are inaccurate numbers, and the report recommends that the Boston Licensing Board require that actual purchase and sale prices be entered in public records.

RC Smith, owner of District 7 Tavern in Roxbury, grew up in the city and said the report’s findings were “nothing but a reflection of my lived experience” in Boston.

“Everyone knows these results. You can walk around town and see them,” said Smith, co-founder of the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition.

The issues raised in the report are deep-rooted, Smith said, and will require a “real equality express” to solve them. He was not optimistic, saying government at all levels has failed him as a business owner during the COVID-19 pandemic. He wants the restaurant and bar industry to become more diverse, but also says Boston needs to focus on retaining the few black-owned restaurants it has.

Too many black-owned businesses, he said, operate as a “desert island,” noting that there are four vacant storefronts and a dollar store near his restaurant. Black entrepreneurs, Smith said, often suffer from a lack of access — to real estate, to banking relationships, to technical support.

“It’s not easy navigating the city of Boston to open a business and then you have to be black,” Smith said. “We don’t have people in the system to help us navigate the system. And I approach nobody. That’s just the reality.”

The Wu administration supports expanding the number of liquor licenses to help close the city’s racial wealth gap. Segun Idowu, Boston’s head of economic opportunity and inclusion, said in a statement. He said ensuring a variety of entrepreneurs have access to liquor licenses is a crucial part of creating opportunity and building generational wealth in Boston.

Stephen Clark, chief operating officer of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said in a statement: “It has been clear for some time that there are certain areas of the city that need access to more liquor licenses, while there are other parts of the city that do not have the additional ones require licenses.”

Councilman Brian Worrell, one of the members driving the proposal for more licenses in certain neighborhoods, said it will “allow local owners to achieve economic mobility that erases racial disparities, breaks down systemic barriers and offers real opportunities for black and brown businesses.” “

“We want to equip them to succeed where the distribution of liquor licenses has historically been unfair,” he said in a statement.

A sponsor of both licensing-related initiatives before the council, Councilwoman Ruthzee Louijeune, said in a phone interview that the OFFSITE report was further evidence “that the system is broken,” with the roots of the problem lying in the reality that the city just so much control over its liquor licenses. If it wants more, it needs to get government approval.

“Structural racism is burned into every part of our society,” she said.

Korn, the OFFSITE partner, said in an interview he believes Boston’s liquor licensing cap discourages would-be first-time operators from entering the industry and limits diversity and equity in the restaurant scene.

“We’re running into this kind of artificial cap that’s imposed by liquor licenses,” Korn said.

Simply put, without alcohol, it becomes more difficult for sit-down restaurants to turn a profit. “There are people who want to open restaurants in some of these neighborhoods who can’t,” Korn said.

Gathering and organizing the alcohol license data has been a chore for Korn, but he hopes the results will bring more transparency to the process. With those numbers, the city can face the current reality, assess it, and make data-driven decisions to correct it, he said.


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.

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