Monday, February 28, 2011

Boston Globe's Editorial Gets One Right on Liquor Licensing

Of all the editorial pages in Boston, the Boston Globe's isn't always the one we agree with the most. But today, we think they make the right call, and we applaud them for it.

In a strangely conservative fashion, today's Globe editorial calls for a dramatic increase in local control through the abolition of Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission and by ending legislative approval of local alcohol licenses.

Abolition of the ABCC is long since overdue. As the Globe says, it's an anachronism, as well as a traditional source of political cronyism and patronage. And, it makes much more sense for local licensing and enforcement authorities to regulate the sale of alcohol across our state. If anything, local authorities could handle licensing and enforcement under the direction of a (small) statewide regulatory commission, preserving statewide standards and acting as arbitrator when necessary.

One thing the Globe did not mention is that, in today's world, the award of licenses to sell alcohol is an important matter of economic development, particularly when it comes to restaurants. Restaurant growth is important in its own right, but eating establishments are also important accessory uses for larger economic development projects. And, any restaurant owner will tell you that it's a lot more difficult (or impossible) to get started if you don't have a liquor license. Local licensing authorities are completely capable of making these decisions without legislative meddling.

But if you want these changes too, don't hold your breath. Liquor licenses are an important pawn in the horse trading that goes on up on Beacon Hill. And taking them away from state pols isn't likely to happen anytime soon.

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