Law Offices of John P. Connell, P.C.: In December 2016, the ABCC released its decision In Re: Codman Square Liquors (December 16, 2016) wherein the ABCC disapproved the City of Boston’s imposition of a “no nips or singles” condition on a Section 15 liquor store license transfer between a liquor store operating for 35 years in Dorchester and the buyer’s of that store. The seller never had any violations with regard to selling “nips or singles” and the buyers were otherwise fit to purchase the store close to another store they operated with a good reputation.

When the license transfer came before the Boston Licensing Board for a hearing, however, the Licensing Board heard from the City of Boston Neighborhood Services liaison and another representative from a City Councilor who requested that the license be approved subject to a “[n]o sale of nips or singles” condition. There was no other opposition heard from the community and the City representatives did not articulate why such a “condition” on the license was requested or needed. Without more, the buyers than received written notice from the Licensing Board that the transfer was approved but with the “no nips or singles” condition imposed on the license. The buyers than appealed to the ABCC.

The ABCC relied on well established law that “reasonable conditions” may be imposed by local licensing authorities with a great deal of discretion on a liquor license where those conditions are not contrary to the law, but found in this case there was no evidentiary basis for the Boston Licensing Board to conclude that such a condition was “reasonable,” as there was no evidence or testimony provided by abutters, the neighborhood association or other businesses in the neighborhood that nips or singles were in fact a problem at this location. The routine requests of Neighborhood Services and a representative from a City Councilor were found to be insufficient to form the “reasonable” basis for such a condition.

This decision is important in that the City of Boston and other local licensing authorities in Massachusetts have been trending to take advantage of the liquor license transfer application process to impose a larger municipal policy – banning the sale of nips and singles – even though a particular store location may not be necessarily causing any issues in this regard. Indeed, some liquor stores rely heavily on the sale of nips and singles, and the value of their liquor store when they go to sell the business can be jeopardized for both the buyer and seller with a process that arbitrarily limits the buyers’ ability to operate the store in conformity with past practices.

(c) 2017 Law Offices of John P. Connell, P.C.

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