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License Commission

Related Pages: Economic Development » Planning & Regulatory Services » License Commission

The License Commission serves as a regulatory board for various licenses issued by the City including licensing purveyors of alcoholic beverages.

Q:
What is a license?
 A:

Black's Law Dictionary defines a "license" as a permit, granted by an appropriate granted body, generally for a consideration, to a person, firm or corporation to pursue some occupation to carry on some business subject to regulation under the police power. Liquor licenses and permits are revocable privileges granted by the authority of the Commonwealth. Any licensee who violates M.G.L. Chapter 138 or any regulation promulgated by the Commission or the local licensing authority may be stripped of their privilege of holding a license, after a hearing.

Q:
Who issues restaurant licenses and package store licenses?
 A:

The local licensing authority in the city of town where the business is located after the completion of a 3-step process. Step one: the local licensing authority grants a restaurant or package store license; Step two: the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (A.B.C.C.) approves the granting of such a license. Following this approval by the A.B.C.C., Step three: the local licensing authority may issue upon payment of the licensing fee.

Q:
How many classifications of retail licenses exists?
 A:

Under the Liquor Control Act (M.G.L. Chapter 138), local licensing authorities may grant three classifications of retail licenses:

  1. Licenses under Section 12 (On-Premise), commonly referred to as a "Pouring License."
  2. Licenses under Section 14 (Special), commonly referred to as a "One-Day License."
  3. Licenses under Section 15 (Off-Premises) commonly referred to as a "Package Store License".
Q:
Are there any qualifications for being granted a retail liquor license?
 A:

Yes. There are qualifications for a liquor license. These qualifications are set by the law. The type and number of qualifications for a liquor license depend on who the party is that is applying for the liquor license (i.e. whether the party is an individual, a partnership, or a corporation) and what type of liquor license is being sought.

  1. Pouring Licenses under Section 12

    Generally, an individual applying for a "pouring license" under Section 12 (e.g. a liquor license for a restaurant, bar, nightclub, hotel or tavern) must be a citizen of the United States and 21 years of age or older. A partnership (where two or more people are doing business together) may hold such a liquor license where each partner is a citizen of the United States and 21 years of age or older.

    A corporation may hold such a liquor license provided that a majority of the directors are not aliens and that the corporate licensee appoints a license manager who is an individual, 21 years of age or older, who is a citizen of the United States and has "vested in him (or her) by properly authorized and executed written delegation as full authority and control of the premises, described in the license of such corporation, and the conduct of all business therein relative to alcoholic beverages as the (corporate) licensee itself could in any way have and exercise if it were a natural person." This license manager must be satisfactory to both the local and state licensing authorities with respect to his or her character.

    No "pouring" license shall be issued to any applicant who has been convicted of a violation of a federal of state narcotic drugs laws. There is no time limit after which this disqualification ends.

  2. Package Store License Under Section 15

    Generally an individual applying for a "package goods store" or "package store" license (i.e. a license for the sale at retail alcoholic beverages not to be drunk on the premises where sold) must be both a citizen and a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and 21 years of age or older. A partnership (where two or more people are doing business together) may hold such a liquor license where each and every partner is both a citizen and a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and 21 years of age or older.

    A corporation may hold such a liquor license provided that the corporation is organized under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that all directors of the corporation are citizens of the United States and that a majority of the directors of the corporation are residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A corporation who holds such a license must appoint a license manager who is an individual, 21 years of age or older, who is a citizen of the United States and has "vested in him (or her) by properly authorized and executed written delegation as full authority and control of the premises, described in the license of such corporation, and the conduct of all business therein relative to alcoholic beverages as the (corporation) licensee itself could in any way have and experience if it were a natural person". This license manager must be satisfactory to both the local and state licensing authorities with respect to his or her character.

    No license shall be issued to any applicant who has been convicted of a felony. Further, "no firm, corporation, association or other combination of persons, directly or indirectly, or through any agent, employee, stockholder, officer or other person or any other subsidiary whatsoever shall be granted, in the aggregate, more than three such licenses in the commonwealth, or be granted more than one such license in a town or two in a city."
Q:
Are license applicants barred from holding a liquor license if they have been convicted of a crime?
 A:

Yes. An on-premise license (which includes the categories of restaurants, hotels, bars, taverns and clubs) may not be issued to a person "who has been convicted of a violation of a federal or state narcotic drug law."

Q:
What are the citizenship and residency requirements?
 A:

 

Section 12 (On-Premise) CITIZENS? RESIDENTS?
Individual YES NO
Partnership ALL NO
Corporation MAJORITY NON-ALIENS NO
Manager YES NO
Section 14 (Off-Premises) CITIZENS? RESIDENTS?
Individual YES YES
Partnership ALL ALL
Corporation ALL DIRECTORS MAJORITY OF DIRECTORS
Manager YES NO
Q:
How far does an establishment selling alcoholic beverages have to be from a church or school?
 A:

No specified distance; however under Section 16C of M.G.L. Chapter 138, premises located within a radius of five hundred feet of a school or church shall not be licensed to sell alcoholic beverages unless the local licensing authority determines in writing and after a hearing that the premises are not detrimental to the educational and spiritual activities of that church or school, unless the premises are those of an inn holder or unless the parts of the buildings are located ten or more floors above street level. The 500 foot distance under this Section 16C is measured in a straight line from the nearest point of the church or school to the nearest point of the premises to be licensed.

Q:
How long does a licensee have to appeal to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission a decision made by the local licensing authority?
 A:

A licensee has five (5) days from receipt of the written decision to appeal to the A.B.C.C. a decision made by the Local Licensing Authority.

Q:
How old do you have to be to tend bar?
 A:

At least 18 years of age. Although Chapter 138, section 34 prohibits the sale or delivery of Alcoholic Beverages to a person under 21 years of age, nothing in Chapter 138, Section 34 shall prohibit any licensee from employing a person 18 years of age or older for the direct handling, selling, mixing or serving of alcohol or alcoholic beverages.

Q:
What forms of identification are acceptable to prove that someone is twenty-one years of age or older, so that person may be served, delivered, or allowed to possess or purchase alcoholic beverages?
 A:

If a licensee is charged with permitting the service, delivery, or possession of alcoholic beverages by a person under 21 years of age, under current state law, a licensee has a defense only if the licensee can affirmatively prove that prior to permitting the service, delivery or possession of alcoholic beverages by a person, the licensee requested, was shown, examined and reasonably relied on either:

  • A valid Massachusetts driver license.
  • A valid Massachusetts Liquor Identification card.
  • A valid Passport issued by the United States Government, or by the government, recognized by the United States government, of a foreign country.
  • A valid United States issued active duty Military Identification Card.
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