BYOB may soon be allowed for Boston diners, with limits

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BOSTON – Boston’s Licensing Board made a long-awaited move toward letting diners bring their own beer and wine into a restaurant, voting unanimously Thursday to begin the process of changing the rules that currently bar customers from doing so.

“Yesterday’s vote is an exciting step forward as the Licensing Board officially sanctioned BYOB dining in Boston,” Michelle Wu, the city council president, said in a statement. “BYOB will bring new vitality to our city by giving small-business owners and consumers more options to build a vibrant restaurant scene in every neighborhood.”

The regulations as drafted would limit BYOB, or “bring your own booze,” permits to restaurants that have a capacity of 30 seats or less, according to a blog post by Bob Luz, the head of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. He also said venues in many downtown neighborhoods such as the West End, North End, South End, Beacon Hill, Back Bay and the Seaport District, would be excluded from obtaining a permit.

The vote came months after the City Council passed and Mayor Marty Walsh singed an ordinance to allow the Licensing Board to change the BYOB ban. In the coming months, the board will develop final rules to regulate BYOB permits and will schedule a public hearing in which residents can voice their opinions and concerns.

Obtaining a liquor license in Boston can be difficult for restaurants, with current state law capping the number at 970. The limit has helped to drive prices for the licenses, which can be sold by holders, to an average of $400,000 in Boston, putting them out of reach of many small bistros and cafes, particularly in those in more residential neighborhoods like Roxbury and Roslindale.

The draft rules would limit the size of containers that could be brought in by customers to 16 ounces for malt beverages and 750 milliliters for wine. Operators would need to show they have proper insurance and have trained their staff in serving alcohol. Permits would cost $300 a year.

“I see this as an opportunity to bring increased economic activity to neighborhoods across Boston and I thank the Licensing Board for taking up this measure,” Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement. He added that allowing BYOB “has great potential to make a positive impact on our city’s economic growth.”