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State doubles Quincy's downtown liquor licenses

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  October 24, 2013 12:17 PM

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With the flourish of a pen and a stamp of approval, state officials doubled the number of liquor licenses in Quincy’s downtown.

Governor Deval Patrick signed the bill Monday, six days after the Legislature approved the measure. The home rule petition, submitted my Quincy’s mayor office early this year, adds 27 liquor licenses to the city’s existing 99, of which 25 are in, but not tied to, the downtown.

The new licenses will all be awarded to establishments in the city’s $1.6 billion downtown redevelopment, and the success of the bill is a major step forward for the project, developers said.

“This is a really important entitlement to get,” said Ken Narva, co-founder Street-Works, the city’s co-partner in the downtown redevelopment. “It’s probably as important as any other. In downtowns, the vitality is driven by street activity and that’s driven first and foremost by the interaction of the consumer.”

Narva said the licenses - one of which will be a package store, and two for hotels //// – will be a key part to creating a sense of place in the downtown.

“It tells the dining community that Quincy is serious about having sufficient variety of places to eat and get together,” he said. “It makes it a destination. It’s really good news.”

Obtaining the licenses was a lengthy process, one that went through an intensive vetting at the city level through multiple meetings with the council, and also went through a series of discussions at the state.

Though a doubling of liquor licenses may have some envisioning a row of late night clubs, Narva said the reality is that alcohol licenses will be a driver for the food business. Add to the fact that 60 percent of successful downtowns are made up of food, and the move was a no brainer.

“It’s not about everyone sitting on the corner getting drunk. It’s [that] drinking is part of the social experience that goes with food,” Narva said.

City officials have long looked to other metropolitan areas for the justification for the additional licenses in the 16 blocks of Quincy’s downtown, seeing 62 liquor licenses in the 16 blocks of Harvard Square, and the 22 liquor licenses in the five blocks of Bethesda Row.

Santana Row has 26 liquor licenses in 11 blocks; West Hardford, Connecticut boasts 31 licenses for 10 blocks.

Not to mention the 91 liquor licenses in the 20 blocks of the North End – the very definition of a dining destination.

“From day one this was a key piece of the entire program,” said Christopher Walker, spokesman for Mayor Thomas Koch. “When you are essentially building a neighborhood as we are, the availability of food and beverage is a major drawing point. From the beginning, we knew that we would need to expand the liquor license base in the downtown to accommodate the multitude of new restaurants coming in.”

Joe Shea, city clerk and chair of the Licensing Board, said days after the approval, the city was still working through the criteria for approving the new licenses.

Plans may include Planning Board approval to ensure the restaurants are within the relegated area of the downtown, which stretches from School Street to Granite Street.

“We’re going to have to set up, they will have to come through the powers that be and meet the sign off and criteria,” Shea said.

Even with the approval, Shea didn’t know of anyone clamoring for one of the new licenses as of yet.

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