Entertainment licenses are granted throughout Massachusetts by Mayors and Boards of Selectmen pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, sections 183A or 181, and authorize a licensee to provide such entertainment as televisions and radio music, to musicians and concerts.  These entertainment licenses, however, may be modified, suspended or revoked for any violation of the licensing “standards” set forth in the statute or the local licensing authority’s rules and regulations, or for a violation of the law.   A license’s modification or suspension must be predicated by a public hearing, of which the licensee is given written notice at least ten days in advance, but, in general, the most common violations that may result in a discipline include:

1.  Patron Assault by Other Patron

The assault of a patron by another patron is the most frequently reported violation according to some sources.   At a disciplinary hearing, a licensee will need to show through testimony or other supporting evidence it took all appropriate steps to: (1) prevent the incident from happening; and (2) acted reasonably in response to the needs of the injured patron, including the calling of police and/or an ambulance.  Failing in a licensee’s burden of proof, especially after similar previous violations, can lead to a licensee’s suspension or revocation of its entertainment license when violence occurs.

2.  Employee Assault on Patron

Employee assaults are typically the result of the employee’s intervention in an ongoing altercation between patrons.  The licensee’s employee, or perhaps “bouncer,” will request that one party to the altercation leave and escort the individual off the premises.  The departing individual may become aggressive and hostile toward the employee, resulting in physical violence.  Multiple violations of this nature are very concerning to local licensing authorities and similarly can lead to the suspension or revocation of an entertainment license, especially if the incident is not the first alleged incident of this nature..

 3.  Overcrowded, Blocked Egress, and Unlicensed Entertainment

Violations for over-capacity, blocked egress, or unlicensed entertainment automatically result in a disciplinary hearing.  Overcrowding of an establishment, if proven, can lead to a temporary suspension, usually between one and three days, even upon the first occurrence of such a violation.  It is therefore incumbent for a licensee who has received a visit from the police or other licensing investigators that they immediately count the number of people within the establishment with the police or investigator present, as a general assumption that the establishment was under capacity will not suffice at a hearing.  Doormen are also required to count patrons in order to insure no overcrowding, and such devices as counters are highly recommended to prove the venue is under capacity.

 4.  Renewal

Annual entertainment licenses are not automatically renewed. Filing for renewal occurs in November. Failure to renew the entertainment license results in its cancellation for the next year.

5.  Transfer

Entertainment licenses are non-transferable.  The transferor must surrender the license and the transferee must apply for a new license with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing at City Hall.  Attempts to “rent” out an entertainment license to a promoter can often times lead to the suspension or revocation of an entertainment license if the true licensee surrenders control of the premises to someone not properly licensed.


Contributed by Robin E. Sosnow

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