Merengue Restaurant isn’t your typical restaurant on Blue Hill Avenue, in Dorchester.

That’s because it’s just one of four bars or restaurants along the four mile stretch of  Blue Hill Ave. in the city with a liquor license. And, for restaurateurs in the area, that type of drought is not good for business.

Karen Henry-Garrett owns the Dot 2 Dot Café in Dorchester and has been trying to get a liquor license for several years in order to include a dinner menu. Right now, the café only operates until the early afternoon.

Every Liquor License in Boston:

"I can’t see why we would do dinners unless we have something like that to offer," she said. "It’s a lot of work, it’s a very long day, and there’s absolutely no guarantee that we would make anything much just on the food."

The state’s Prohibition-era quota system caps the number of liquor licenses in most cities and towns, pushing the cost of even a basic license into the tens of thousands of dollars.

"I don’t have that kind of money to be able to fork out for a beer and wine license," Henry-Garrett said.

But even if she had the money, she said just applying for a license is a Herculean task.

"It doesn’t make sense in that I don’t even know who to go to apply to," she said. "What I understand at this point is that you can put in an application, which you pay for, to the city, who will then reject it because there aren’t any to give, but I don’t get my money back."

The Boston City Council is now looking to reform the cap on liquor licenses, including giving the city the power to set how many can be issued. But any changes must first the get the OK from state lawmakers.


Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley and the president of the Restaurant and Business Alliance, Dave Andelman, joined Greater Boston on Thursday to discuss the cap on liquor licenses.