Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable Tackey Chan, House Chair
The Honorable John J. Cronin, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure
State House, Boston
Dear Chair Chan, Chair Cronin, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,
On behalf of cities and towns across the Commonwealth, the MMA wishes to express our appreciation for the opportunity to offer testimony in support of several bills pertaining to municipal control of liquor licensing before your committee today, including H. 367, An Act returning liquor license control to municipalities, and H. 296, An Act relative to removing liquor license caps in communities.
In the five years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature approved more than 150 home rule petitions to provide additional liquor licenses to cities and towns. In this session alone, there are currently more than 10 petitions requesting more than 40 additional liquor licenses. These licenses aid development projects and various other efforts to stimulate local economies even before COVID-era precautions devastated many municipal downtowns. We greatly appreciate your support of these petitions and your continued dedication to supporting cities and towns in COVID recovery efforts. However, the frequency of these requests demonstrates the urgent need for comprehensive legislation to address this issue and return authority to the municipalities of Massachusetts.
The current process to secure a liquor license within the statutory quota includes obtaining a Certificate of Good Standing from the Department of Revenue, submitting an application to the Local Licensing Authority and, if approved at the local level, seeking approval by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, a state agency that has final approval. This comprehensive process provides sufficient review of the application and includes substantial time for feedback from the community. We believe this process is more than adequate to effectively manage additional licenses in excess of the previously established quota.
The needs of individual cities and towns are better understood at the local level, as are the potential benefits or detriments that could come from a higher number of locally granted liquor licenses. Local licensing authorities will only approve applications that are broadly supported by the community, and the ABCC would maintain its jurisdiction to investigate individuals involved and the application’s business location. We believe that this existing practice for granting available licenses is sufficiently thorough to handle the granting of additional licenses, making the existing quota system outdated.
Cities and towns across the Commonwealth understand the importance of building local economies, and these licenses can spur economic activity in communities of all sizes by providing residents a place to eat, shop, and enjoy a night out without leaving their community. This has become even more apparent as we look to our local downtowns to help spur economic growth in the devastation and disruption of the pandemic.
Further, all 351 cities and towns have changed significantly since the current law went into effect in 1933. As industry has shifted away from manufacturing, many communities that were once mill towns, manufacturing centers, or river and railway trading hubs have transformed into residential suburbs with different needs. No one understands those needs better than the residents and their local officials. The most prudent policy is to give them the ability to make economic development decisions directly.
Additionally, the ABCC website explicitly states that the process to grant an available license may take several months, but that does not take into account the length of time it takes to prepare, file, hear, schedule, vote and enact home rule petitions, so this legislation would be an important step to expedite this already prolonged process.
Local officials and community residents should be trusted in their commitment to positively support economic development through the ability to grant additional licenses without petitioning the General Court. The local licensing authority approval process is already more than adequate to review applicants and decide the number of licenses. And the Commonwealth would still retain control over the granting of licensure through the regulatory powers of the ABCC. H. 367 and H. 296 would streamline the unnecessarily lengthy process that exists now, and would spur timely economic growth in cities and towns and throughout the Commonwealth.
We appreciate your consideration of this important issue, and we respectfully ask the Committee to favorably report out H. 367 and H. 296. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Legislative Analyst Ali DiMatteo at email@example.com at any time.
Thank you very much for your partnership and your lasting support of cities and towns.
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO