How we review applications
All businesses have to get licensed for certain situations. Find out what applications you need to give us.
Whenever you apply for a license, we'll hold a hearing to decide if we're going to approve it. We have a meeting every Thursday to approve or reject licenses. Learn more about our hearings, and who can attend them.
Appealing a decision
You can appeal any decision involving an alcohol license (except change of hours) to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. You have five days from when you get your decision to appeal.
For general appeals, and to appeal an Operation of Hours license, you need to contact the Massachusetts Superior Court. You have 30 days from when we make a decision to appeal.
Licenses and regulations
If you want to get a Common Victualler License, please keep this in mind:
- We need to approve your application. You also need to show us a copy of your certificate from Inspectional Services.
- If your capacity is for more than 49 people, you need to show us your Place of Assembly Permit from the Fire Department.
- You'll also have to get approved by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission if you serve alcohol. Find out what applications you need for your business.
Almost all food service businesses need to get a Common Victualler license. The ones that don't are:
- mobile carts and buses
- bakeries with no seating, and
- convenience stores with no seating, or where the amount of money made from prepared foods isn't more than 10 percent of the annual revenue.
Some businesses will have to give notice to other properties next to yours and local Neighborhood Associations, including:
- common Victuallers with any type of alcohol license, and
- new liquor license holders.
You also need to let them know if you:
- extend an outdoor area or patio
- Change your license description (Alteration of Premises)
- add cordials, malt, or wine to your license, or
- change the location of your license.
If you transfer your liquor license, or change your license type, you only have to let the local Neighborhood Association know.
There are other special circumstances to consider:
- If you're applying for a new license, making changes to an existing one, or adding an outdoor area, you'll also need to give us an updated floor plan with your application.
- If you're adding a patio in a public seating area, you need to get approved by the Public Works. You'll have to apply for a Sidewalk Cafe License.
- If you're going to play music, have TVs, or have live entertainment, you'll need an entertainment permit from Consumer Affairs.
License fees vary by the type of license and other factors. Learn more about license and hearing fees.
- You need to get a liquor license to offer any kind of alcohol. You can apply for a malt and wine license at the same time as a liquor and cordial license.
- You can apply for a special one-day liquor license, but only a nonprofit or a person running an event for a nonprofit can get a liquor and cordial license. Anyone else wanting a one-day liquor license can only get a license for wine and beer.
- You can sell and transfer your liquor license if it isn't restricted, but you will need approval from the Licensing Board and the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. Restricted licenses have an "R" in the license number.
- You can start serving alcohol at 8 a.m. from Monday through Saturday. On Sundays, you have to start at noon, but you can request to start serving as early as 10 a.m.
The Boston police may want to inspect your location at any time. If you get a violation, the Board will review your case and decide whether you need a hearing. If there's no hearing, the Board won't take disciplinary action against your business. If there is a hearing, we will let you know the date and time. Learn about what happens at a hearing.