BOSTON - Minority-run small restaurant owners and city leaders speak out about the inequities surrounding liquor licenses throughout the city of Boston.
"We are excited for every restaurant to open up, but we need to ensure that every neighborhood has a space for that kind of home, welcome, and economic opportunity," Mayor Michelle Wu said.
On Monday, The Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure held a hearing on a liquor license equity bill.
Right now there are about 1,100 liquor licenses in Boston. But less than four-percent are held by Black-owned businesses.
The bill calls for 250 new liquor licenses to be spread throughout 10 zip code areas over the course of five years. It promises five new licenses a year for each neighborhood including areas like Hyde Park, Mattapan, Dorchester, Roxbury and East Boston.
"We are on the verge of closing, and it's something that breaks my heart," Franando Rosas said.
Rosas owns Bono, a Salvadorian Mexican and Colombian restaurant in East Boston. He says he's applied for a liquor license three times but remains on a waiting list.
"I feel like there is a line. I can only be considered as a takeout place. If you actually want to experience the full dining experience, you have to get out of your neighborhood," Rosas said.
State Representative Christopher Worrell sponsored the bill. He says a liquor license on the free market costs too much for small owned businesses and more equity will boost economic development.
"These liquor licenses are now on the market for half a million dollars. My community is representing the blackest and brownest in the Commonwealth, we don't have that kinds of funds for a liquor license. We have to try to just stay open," Worrell said.
Some of the owners who testified at the State House say this bill will make or break them. They cannot continue without a liquor license and be a considered a true restaurant.
The committee will have a vote on this bill in the coming months.
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