Monday, July 22, 2013

Rant: Andelman, Liquor License Quotas & Food Trucks

""Liquor licenses are a lot like food trucks, chefs and owners won't say that they bitterly resent that these trucks are pulling up right in front of them after they built up a restaurant and pay rent.""
--Dave Andelman

It seems that Dave Andelman, of the Phantom Gourmet and also President of the Restaurant & Business Alliance (RABA), has a seeming obsession with attacking food trucks, no matter what the topic of conversation. Andelman recently appeared with Boston Councilor Ayanna Pressley on Greater Boston, hosted by Emily Rooney. The topic of discussion was Pressley's home rule petition that would essentially remove the cap on liquor licenses in Boston. Despite that being the topic at hand, Andelman made sure to interject his disgust for food trucks into the conversation.

I previously ranted at length about the topic of Pressley's petition in Eliminating the Liquor License Cap. In brief, I am opposed to the petition as I believe it will unnecessarily hurt over 1000 existing business by drastically reducing the existing value of their liquor licenses, creating an economic hardship through the reduction of a valuable asset. I also offered a solution, which would help to protect that asset while also making liquor licenses more accessible and affordable to businesses in places like urban renewal areas and empowerment zones. And that is the primary concern of Pressley, helping out such urban renewal areas and empowerment zones which currently have few liquor licenses.

During the Greater Boston segment, Pressley restated most of the talking points she has repeated before, adding really nothing new to the discussion. She failed to indicate if Mayor Menino supports the petition, or what members of the legislature support the position. The only support she has offered is now Andelman and RABA. She also failed to address the economic problems her petition would cause to existing restaurants with liquor licenses. Though she states her petition would allow them to still sell their licenses, those licenses would be nearly worthless if there is no longer a cap on licenses in Boston. Pressley remained silent on that point.

Andelman has now stepped forward, speaking on behalf of RABA, and apparently supporting this petition. Though if you review the RABA website, there is nothing on it about the petition. Andelman believes the petition is a good idea for "depressed" areas like Dorchester and Mattapan. He believes, and I agree, that restaurants are often helped out if they possess a liquor license. Andelman indicated that the petition should be sensitive to restaurants that already possess a liquor license, and he seems content with Pressley's petition as currently written.

However, that petition is a slap in the face to the RABA restaurants that Andelman represents. By supporting that petition, Andelman is doing a major disservice to those restaurants. Maybe he fails to understand the effect of the petition. It certainly is not sensitive to the restaurants that have already paid large amounts of money for their liquor licenses.

We all know that the only reason the existing liquor licenses are so valuable is because there is a limit on the amount of licenses in Boston. If you suddenly remove that cap, as this petition wants to do, then obviously the value of existing liquor loses drops drastically. The only bone the petition throws to these restaurants is that they retain the ability to sell their liquor licenses. But who cares? As the licenses will be worth so little, selling them won't amount to anything. The restaurants certainly won't recoup what they paid for their licenses. Why buy a license from an existing restaurant when you can simply apply for a new one instead?

Hurting over 1000 restaurants with existing liquor licenses is wrong! And Andelman, as a restaurant advocate, should be ashamed for supporting this petition which will hurt RABA members and other restaurant owners. The solution I offered previously will accomplish Pressley's primary goal, helping places like urban renewal areas and empowerment zones, but also will help protect existing licenses.

If you are concerned about this petition, the Boston City Council's Committee on Government Operations will hold a public hearing on this matter on Wednesday, August 14 at 2pm. If you cannot attend in person, the hearing will also be broadcast live on Comcast Channel 8, RCN Channel 82 and online in City Council TV. You can even send in written comments to the Council via email, christine.o'


Frederick Wright said...

I'm in favor of removing the cap on liquor licenses, but I also recognize that steps MUST be taken to compensate current owners who have been forced to participate in the current racist, Prohibition-era market controls. We can't undo 80 years of regulatory abuse with the stroke of a pen.

As for food trucks, this is another example of where people like the Andelmans are showing their provincial, narrow, heritage. I can name a hundred cities around the world where food trucks, food stalls, and carts happily co-exist with thriving sit-down restaurants. Boston simply isn't that different and if more people actually lifted their heads up and looked around they might realize that.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that total removal of liquor licensing helps anyone, I do like the idea of additional licenses being made available in areas that do not have them. Perhaps a certain number could be beer/wine, at a lower cost. This would not dilute the value of a full license, and might be more affordable for places in the "depressed" areas. I'm not a city resident, please feel free to share this idea. Most of those restaurnts tend to serve ethnic food, which goes better with a beer or wine anyway.

As far as food trucks,I cannot see where my under $10 lunch purchase takes business away from restaurants. The competition would be MacDonalds (which I do not patronize) or places like Metro on Congress St. Office workers want a quick, hot meal to bring back to their desks or eat in the park. Last I looked, a sit down restaurant lunch would cost a minimum of $17 for the same lunch because tax is additional and a tip is virtually demanded. Next there will be ocmpliants that the tables and chairs on the Greenway take business away from sitdown restaurants! What about the Phantom gourmet events, don't they take business away from all sorts of other food venues?

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks Frederick for your comments. It isn't fair to penalize existing restaurants from what happened 80 years ago.

And I fully agree with you on food trucks.

Thanks Anon too for your comments. Beer/wine licenses are already at a lower cost than full liquor licenses. Making more available though would help.

Unknown said...

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