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How to get an annual live entertainment license

You can get a new license, change an existing license, or renew your existing license.

Last updated:
Step
1

Review the regulations

You must get an entertainment license for certain activities or events. You'll need to apply for a license if:

  • You have a Common Victualler or Alcohol license and are hosting a public show.
  • You're hosting a public show and you plan to charge an admission fee.
  • You're hosting a free public show, but patrons need to pay for certain activities with coins, like an arcade.

Public shows are concerts, dance exhibitions, cabarets, and other events that include:

  • dancing, whether by performers or patrons
  • recorded or live music
  • an amplification system
  • a theatrical play or a film screening
  • a floor show or light show, or
  • any other audio or visual show.

You can get more detailed information about regulations from this City booklet.

Before you apply, you also need to make sure to pay any outstanding bills with the City.

Step
2

Get your application together

Print out and complete the application for a live entertainment license. Live entertainment is considered entertainment with live performance. This includes instrumental and vocal music, karaoke, a disc jockey, dancing, and theater shows.

Depending on which application you are applying for, you may need to include the following documents:

The application fee depends on the size and type of entertainment you will be having. To get an idea of what it costs to apply, you can view a list of common fees. We take certified checks, business checks, money orders, credit cards (no American Express), or debit cards.

Step
3

Give us your application

Bring or mail your completed application and documents to:

Consumer Affairs and Licensing
1 City Hall Square, Room 817
Boston, MA 02215

We will mail you an invoice for your license after it's approved. By mail, we only accept business checks, certified checks, or money orders. You can pay by credit card by visiting Boston City Hall, Room 817.

Step
4

Wait for our response

We will let you know about your application in three to four weeks. You may be subject to a hearing if you are applying for live entertainment.

The fee for a hearing is $100, and you need to pay it before the date of the hearing. The manager of record or a corporate officer must be present at the hearing.

Step
1

Before you get started

If you have an annual live entertainment license and want to make a change to it, you need to file an amendment. Changes to a license include:

  • an increase in capacity*
  • a change in the type of entertainment
  • the adding or removal of entertainment
  • a change of manager*
  • a change of your corporate name or officers*
  • a change in hours or in your business name, or*
  • other changes that affect your license.*

Please note: If your business has a new owner, you will need to file a new application. Entertainment licenses are non-transferrable. 

*The Licensing Board must approve your amendments. These changes also must be amended on your Common Victualler or Alcohol Beverage license before your Entertainment License amendments may be approved.

Step
2

Get your application together

Print out and complete the general application to amend your license. Make sure to give us a description of the change and the reason for it.

There are also some more forms you need to fill out if they apply to your situation:

  • If the manager of your business has changed, you need to complete the Change of Manager form. You need to include a current copy of your Alcohol or Common Victualler license with this change, and you may be subject to a hearing for this change. 
  • If the corporate officers of your business have changed, please complete the Change of Corporate Officers form.
  • If the name of your business has changed, you need to complete the Change of Name or D/B/A form. You will need to include your updated Business Certificate.

To change your license, the application fee is $35 per change. If you are changing the entertainment categories or capacity, you may be subject to additional fees. We take certified checks, business checks, money orders, credit cards or debit cards.

Step
3

Give us your application

Bring or mail your completed application and documents to:

Consumer Affairs and Licensing
1 City Hall Square, Room 817
Boston, MA 02215

We will mail you an invoice for your license after it's approved. By mail, we only accept business checks, certified checks, or money orders. You can pay by credit card by visiting Boston City Hall, Room 817.

Step
4

Wait for our response

We will let you know about your application in three to four weeks. We may also schedule a hearing with you after getting your application.

The fee for a hearing is $100, and you need to pay it before the date of the hearing. 

Step
1

Review new procedures for 2021 renewal

For the 2021 Entertainment license renewal, the Licensing Division is changing the renewal procedures due to COVID-19. From October 19, 2020, until December 14, 2020, we will be using an online form to collect all license renewals. You do not need to wait until the month of November to renew, as in previous years.

Our office is not open to walk-in visits due to COVID-19. We are only available by appointment. Visitors who do not have an appointment will be asked to leave and to schedule an appointment to return.

Please note:
  • Licensees who would like in-person help for the renewal will still be asked to complete the online renewal application at City Hall. We will have kiosks available on the Mezzanine Level. There will be limited access to City Hall and appointments due to the ongoing public health emergency.
  • We strongly encourage all business to be conducted via phone, email, or virtual meeting, unless doing so is impossible. We want to ensure the health and well-being of everyone.
Step
2

We send you the renewal application

We mail renewal application packets at the beginning of October. If you do not receive your renewal packet by October 16, 2020, please call us at 617-635-4175 or email Entertainment2021@boston.gov.

You have until Monday, December 14, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. to complete and return your renewal application without a late-fee penalty. The late fee is $50 per month after December 14, 2020.

Please note:
  • Filing and paying the renewal fee online does not constitute a complete renewal application. Our staff needs to review the submission. They will advise whether it is complete, or if there is more information or additional documents needed.
  • We will hold online training sessions and online office hours to walk through the renewal process and to answer specific questions. Recordings of online training sessions and online office hours will be available online. We're holding Virtual Office Hours Monday through Friday on Zoom from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Step
3

Complete the online renewal application

Your renewal packet will include a renewal application for you to complete and upload onto our online form, along with the following documents:

  • a Renewal Checklist, and
  • a three-tiered invoice or bill.

Please follow the instructions carefully.  You will need to gather and submit copies of other documents that are not included in the packet, including:

Complete the online application

Step
4

Submit your payment

You may choose to pay online by credit card, debit card, or check. Note: There is a 2.75 percent fee for debit and credit card transactions. There is no service fee for check payments online. Bounced checks will incur additional fees. Go to our online payment portal.

You may choose to pay by mail. We discourage this because you may submit the check payment online with no service fees. If you choose to send a check by mail, please make it payable to "City of Boston". It should include the license name and number in the memo. You can send the check to:

Boston City Hall
1 City Hall Square, Room 817
Boston, MA 02201

Want to make a cash payment at City Hall? You will need to make an appointment. You also will need to save the receipt for the cash payment to submit to the Licensing Division via email at Entertainment2021@boston.gov, or in-person in Room 809/817.

Step
5

Wait to hear from us

After we receive your online renewal application and payment, we will reach out to you by email. We will contact you through the email provided on the online form. If your application is not complete, you will need to email the missing documents, information, or payment.

If you received an email from us, an assigned staff member will email you the 2021 Entertainment license by the end of December. You must print the 2021 License and post it conspicuously inside the licensed premise. If you are unable to print the 2021 License, you may request that the Division mail the 2021 license to the licensed premise.

Please note: Walk-in visits to pick up the 2021 License in City Hall are not permitted.

Contact:
Entertainment Licensing
1 City Hall Square, Room 817
Boston, MA 02201-2039
Safety

Learn the safety guidelines for entertainment events. We've also created a safety checklist.

Keep in mind

  • We don't accept renewal applications through the mail at this time. We also charge a $50-per-month late fee for renewal applications submitted after Monday, December 14, 2020.
  • Entertainment licenses are non-transferrable. If you are a new owner, you will need to apply for a new annual non-live or live entertainment license.
  • Changes to your renewal application must be made before your renewal application submission. Please submit the appropriate amendment forms for your changes. Changes will be subject to additional fees. 
  • Entertainment fees are subject to change.
  • We will not accept incomplete renewal applications.
  • Upon your submission of your completed renewal application, you will be emailed an entertainment license for the next year.
  • We will be waiving the 2021 live entertainment fee. You will only be responsible for paying for the non-live entertainment fees.
  • Are you a licensee who is not permitted to open until the state's Phase 4 reopening plan and have remained closed? You may request a waiver of the non-live entertainment fees.

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