Alcoholic Beverages Retail License Applications in the City of Boston are processed by Boston Licensing Board ("BLB" or "Board").
Before applying for a new retail license
The number of liquor licenses in the City of Boston is established by Massachusetts General Law. The availability of a license at any given time is fluid as licenses are routinely transferred between businesses if unrestricted, subject to the approval of the Board and the ABCC, or returned to the City of Boston upon the closure of a business if restricted. In short, the Board can only issue licenses pending availability.
The Board will hold a public hearing to consider any new application for a license. If the Board determines that there is a public need for the type of license at the proposed location and that the character and fitness of the applicant are such that the granting of the license would be in the interest of the common good, the Board will then look to whether there is an available license for which the applicant qualifies.
If you are seeking to purchase a transferable license on the open market that transfer must be approved by the Board and the ABCC and is subject to a hearing. The Board is not involved in the private market for the purchase of licenses other than to review and approve or deny the transfer application.
Complete the ABCC retail license application
Complete the MA's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) new retail license application. Be sure to review the checklist provided on the first page of the application and gather all the requested documents. $200 filing fee is due to the ABCC at this time.
Please note the entire application process can typically take anywhere from 4 weeks to 12 weeks depending on the application type, components, and volume of applications.
Submit the ABCC app to the Boston Licensing Board
The Boston Licensing Board will review and submit the ABCC application on your behalf. The completed application may be submitted on this form (Alcohol Petition Form).
- Application must be places in the order listed on the ABCC checklist
- Application should be submitted as one document in .pdf format.
Applications may be rejected if they are submitted incorrectly or if they are incomplete.
Wait for Licensing hearing to be scheduled
Once the application is complete and the community process has been satisfied, the Board staff will schedule your petition/transaction for a hearing before the Licensing Board.
Licensing transaction hearings are typically held on the first and last Wednesday of the month.
Legal ad posting review
New applications require a Legal Ad to be placed in the Boston Herald Newspaper (Public Notice). The Public Notice needs to be posted 10 calendar days prior to the hearing date.
- You will receive an email from Maria Farrell (Maria.Farrell@boston.gov) with a copy of the Legal Ad from our department for your review and approval. It is important for the Applicant to review the petition information on the advertisement for accuracy. If the notice is posted with errors then the Applicant will be required to pay for another advertisement and may be rescheduled for another hearing date.
- Next, you will receive an email with payment instructions the morning before the ad needs to run.
- You will have to pay $170 directly to the Boston Herald before 4:00 p.m. on the same day. Please note if this is not paid on time, your ad will not run and you will be moved to the next available hearing.
Notify the abutters
Abutters notifications are legally required for all new license applications via Certified Mail. You will have three (3) days from the date of the printed legal advertisement to send a copy of the printed Legal Ad to all your direct abutters via Certified Mail. See detailed instructions here.
Signature cards and return slips are to be sent to the Boston Licensing Board via email to Alcohol@boston.gov before your hearing.
Pay for the Licensing Board hearing
The week before the hearing, you will receive a link to pay the Boston Licensing Board's $100 hearing fee. Once the fee is paid, the official hearing notice will be sent to the Applicant with the Zoom link for the hearing which can also be found on our main Licensing Board page under "Hearings and Meetings."
Attend the Licensing Board hearing
At the Board hearing, the Applicant or the Applicant's representative will present the business plan and concept to the Licensing Board.
The presentation should include:
- Business proposal and concept (ex. theme, type of venue, etc...)
- Size of establishment
- Type of cuisine or food that will be offered
- Hours of opreations
- Will there be takeout service? If so, what percentage of the business will be takeout?
- Will a third-party delivery service (i.e. Uber, Doordash, etc...) be utilized? If so, what will be the plan to prevent double parking, traffic build up, parking issues, etc....?
- Manager of record's qualification
- The Manager must be a U.S Citizen, resident of the Commonwealth of MA, and familiar with the rules and regulations of the Boston License Board and the ABCC
- Demonstration of public need for a license of the type at the location
Wait for the Board to vote
After the hearing, the Board will review the application and determine if there is a public need for a license in the proposed location. The Board vote is typically held on the first and last Thursday of each month and will usually occur the day after the transactional hearing.
The Board may vote in the following ways:
- Granted (If the application is granted, it will be sent to the ABCC for final review and approval)
- Granted pending availability
- Rejected with prejudice (Applicant cannot reapply for another year at the same location)
- Rejected without prejudice (Applicant can reapply at any time)
Wait for ABCC approval
The Board will then send your application to the ABCC for review and final approval. Once the ABCC approves your application, they will send you and the Licensing Board an email with the approval notice.
From there, The Licensing Board will contact you to complete the process including the submission of the following:
- Building Inspection Certificate from Inspection Services Department;
- Place of Assembly Permit (If capacity is over 49 persons) from Fire Prevention;
- Copy of your Liquor Liability Insurance Declarations Page, and;
- Licensing Board license fee
Post the license and renew application
If a license is granted and issued, the Licensee should post the license in a clear and conspicuous place at the licensed premise. A license is only valid for the year listed on the license. The Licensed Premise Unit will conduct random inspections of premises in the City of Boston for compliance with Licensing laws and the Board's Rules and Regulations. For more information on compliance and violation hearings, please see the tab named "Licensing Compliance."
Renewal Application: Each year at the end of October, a renewal package will be mailed directly to the licensed premise. The Licensee is required to submit the renewal application as instructed in the package directions. The deadline is November 30th per MA State Law. Any License that is not renewed by November 30th will have to permanently close the premises at 11:59 p.m. on December 31st, reapply for a new License, attend a hearing, and obtain this Board and the ABCC’s approval prior to being eligible to be issued a license. Please note, if you allow your License to expire you have no legal right to a new License from the Board. This is State Law and no exceptions can be made. For more information on the renewal process, please review the tab named "Renew a Retail License."
Complete renewal application
Licensees will be mailed a renewal application packet to the licensed premise by the end of October. The renewal application is due on November 30th. Licensees will be required to file the renewal application online. A link will be provided in the renewal instructions and will be listed on the main Licensing page.
Applicants may renew in person at City Hall but will still be required to submit the renewal application online at kiosks in Room 809. Applications cannot be mailed or emailed to the Licensing Board as they will be returned to the sender.
If the Licensee has not received a renewal application by the first week of November, the Licensee should email RenewAlcohol@boston.gov for a copy to be emailed. Please include the Business Name, Address, and License Number. It is the responsibility of the Licensee to renew their license on time.
Complete the online application
The renewal packet will the following forms for the Licensee to complete and upload onto our online form:
- Licensing Board renewal application;
- ABCC renewal application;
- a three-tiered invoice or bill.
The Licensee will also need to gather and submit copies of other documents that are not included in the packet, including:
- an Inspection Certificate;
- (if over 49 capacity), a Place of Assembly permit, and;
- Proof of Liquor Liability*.
On the online renewal form, you will also be required to submit a 24-hour emergency contact, (optional) owner identification, and (optional) New Year's Eve Extension request.
KEEP IN MIND:
Only an officer listed on the license renewal may sign the renewal application. If you need to change a manager or corporate officer, please contact us as soon as possible at Alcohol@boston.gov.
Liquor Liability coverage should be for bodily injury or death, a minimum amount of $250,000 on account of injury to or death of 1 person; and $500,000 on account of any 1 accident resulting in injury to or death of more than 1 person. The proof of liability must specifically state that it is for the licensed premises, it is liquor liability coverage, and the exact amount of liquor liability coverage provided.
- (Strongly Preferred) Online - You may pay online via credit card, debit card, or check. Please note, card transactions will incur a 2.75% service charge. There is no service charge for check payments online. Use your license number (LB-######) to pay online: bit.ly/paylicense2 (case sensitive).
- Applicants should verify the payment total with the invoice that is mailed for accuracy.
- If submitting back-to-back payments (for multiple licenses), due to browser issues, a previous payment fee may appear again, the Applicant can select "remove fee" to remove the duplicate payment.
- By Mail - You may mail a check payable to the “City of Boston” with the License number on the memo line to Boston City Hall, 1 City Hall Square, Room 809, Boston, MA 02201. DO NOT MAIL CASH.
- Cash: If paying cash at City Hall, please bring the 3-tiered invoice to Window M-8 on the Mezzanine Level.
- Check: Same as “by mail” but you will drop off the check at Room 809.
- Credit/debit card: You will pay in Room 809. A service charge of 2.75% will be incurred for card transactions.
Wait for the Board to review
A member of the Board’s staff will review the submission and advise whether it is complete or if there are additional items/information outstanding via email (RenewAlcohol@boston.gov). Please check spam inbox in case the Board email has been filtered.
Upon the Board’s approval of the completed Renewal Application, you will receive the License via email. An email will also be sent if you are approved for a New Year's Eve extension.
The Licensee must print the License and post it conspicuously inside the licensed premise. If the Licensee is unable to print the License, they may request that the Board mail the license to the licensed premise.
Failure to renew by deadline
Failure to file the renewal application and to pay the renewal fee by November 30th, will result in the expiration of the License at midnight on December 31st. If the License expires, the Licensee will have to permanently close the premises at 11:59 p.m. on December 31st, reapply for a new License, attend a hearing, and obtain this Board and the ABCC’s approval prior to being eligible to be issued a License.
Please note, if you allow your License to expire you have no legal right to a new License from the Board. THIS IS STATE LAW AND NO EXCEPTIONS CAN BE MADE.
New Year's Eve Extension
A licensee may request a maximum for 2 additional hours for food service and and a maximum of 1 hour for alcohol service on New Year's Eve. Licensees with a current closing hour of 2:00 a.m. may not apply to extend the service of alcohol closing hour. No Licensee can sell or provide alcohol after 2:00 a.m.
If granted, you will receive an email granting the approval which you should post in a conspicuous place at your establishment on New Year's Eve.
Keep in Mind
- All licensees are still required to renew even if they were just recently approved and granted a license.
- For your renewal application to be complete, you will be required to submit (1) a complete application online and (2) payment online.
- Please do not delay submitting your renewal application. You should submit the renewal application, ABCC application, and payment even if you are still waiting on other documents such as an updated Inspection Certificate or Place of Assembly permit. If you are temporarily closed, you are still required to submit the application with any documents that you do have.
Post a valid license
The Licensed Premise Unit (LPU), Boston Police officers assigned to the Board, will conduct random inspections.* Licensees should have all their valid City permits posted in a clear and conspicuous place. It is the responsibility of the Licensee to renew all their permits with the appropriate departments on time.
The LPU will inspect and issue notices for an alleged violation.
Here are some examples of common violations:
- Blocked egress
- Alcohol or food service without a posted license
- Expired permits
- Underage drinking
- Assault & Battery
- Bottle Service without a license
*Inspections may also be conducted by other City Departments such as the Fire Department, Health, Inspectional Services, District police officers, Code Enforcement, etc... These inspectors do not issue violations for the Licensing Board.
Inspection notice issued
If a licensee is issued a Licensed Premise Inspection Notice (LPV), the Board will review the notice and the following may occur:
- Notice is filed without a hearing (no further action required by the licensee)
- An Inspection administrative hearing is scheduled (licensee required to attend)
Scheduled for Inspection hearing
If a Licensee is scheduled for an LPV hearing, Board staff will mail and email a notice of the scheduled hearing to the Licensee as well as any witnesses. LPV hearings are typically held on the first and last Tuesday of each month.
The Licensee will be required to attend the hearing. The Police Officers who issued the notice will read the violation into the record. Then the Licensee will have an opportunity to provide testimony on the alledged incident.
Wait for Board decision
The Board will review the report and testimony provided and issue a decision. The decision for violation hearings are typically held on the first or last Thursday of each month during a "Voting Hearing."
Possible decisions are as follows: