Many cities and towns in Massachusetts limit the number of liquor licenses that are issued to restaurants and bars. Whether starting a new restaurant or buying an existing establishment, a liquor license must often be acquired and transferred from an existing license holder. The most common liquor licenses are either for the sale of wine and malt liquor or an “all alcohol” license, often referred to as a “full liquor license”.
The liquor license transfer process is controlled at two levels: the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) and the local town or municipal government. To transfer a liquor license, a business owner must complete proper applications to both the ABCC and the city or town where the business is located.
Once the application is complete, the restaurant owner must attend a liquor license hearing within their city or town. Once approved by the city or town, the license application is forwarded to ABCC for review and approval. The ABCC also sends the application to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue to make sure that all state taxes have been paid by both the transferor and transferee of the liquor license. When approval is received by ABCC, the city or town can then issue the license to the restaurant owner. The overall process typically lasts between 6 and 10 weeks.