Increase in Section 15 Liquor Licenses in Massachusetts

State law went into effect that increases the number of Section 15 liquor licenses (off premise/retail) licenses that one individual or business may own. The increase went from three licenses to five with steps in place to raise that maximum in 2016 and again in 2020.

ABCC screen captureSection 15 Liquor License Regulations

Under Massachusetts Alcohol Beverages Control Commission (ABCC), a Section 15 Liquor License is an off-premise license, commonly referred to as a “package store license.” According to ABCC, “Generally an individual applying for a ‘package goods store’ or ‘package store’ license (i.e. a license for the sale at retail of alcoholic beverages not to be drunk on the premises where sold) must be both a citizen and a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and 21 years of age or older. A partnership (where two or more people are doing business together) may hold such a liquor license where each and every partner is both a citizen and a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and 21 years of age or older. A corporation may hold such a liquor license provided that the corporation is organized under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that all directors of the corporation are citizens of the United States and that a majority of directors of the corporation are residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” Similar regulations apply for LLCs.

Additionally, no license holder may be granted more than five licenses in the Commonwealth or more than one in a town or two in a city. On Jan. 1, 2016, this number will increase from five to seven with the maximum increasing again from seven to nine on Jan. 1, 2020, according to the ABCC.

Pros and Cons of Liquor License Increases

Competition is always a concern for any business, and increasing the number of liquor licenses a single entity may own throughout the commonwealth has proponents on both sides of the argument. Large corporations, like BJs®, have greater financial wherewithal to pony up should additional licenses become available than their independently owned counterparts. Conversely, those arguing for the increase believe they will be better able to serve their customers by providing additional outlets to sell beer and wine or all alcoholic beverages.

As it stands now, there is disparity in alcoholic beverage offerings in chains like Trader Joe’s, according to “Retailers allowed to hold more liquor licenses” on NewsTelegram.com. Retailers with multiple locations have to pick and choose the locations at which they’ll sell alcoholic beverages. Currently, Trader Joe’s is limited to five licenses, so you can’t buy “Two Buck Chuck” wine at every Trader Joe’s in Massachusetts.

Of course, the process isn’t entirely straightforward. Cities and towns still control the number of Section 15 licenses that are available, based on population. The legislation that increased the number of licenses a single entity could hold did not expand the overall pool of licenses available. Additionally, retailers will need to honor local regulations and certain lease restrictions. For example, a retailer with a new Section 15 liquor license can’t open in a strip mall that already houses a liquor store.

Atlantic License Brokers Expertise

With the various regulations regarding Section 15 liquor licenses at the state and local levels, it’s unwise to attempt to go through the process alone if you are interested in expanding the number of licenses you own. Atlantic License Brokers has the expertise help business owners determine the type of liquor license that is right for their businesses and to determine the market value of liquor licenses.

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