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Hub bars violate food licenses, receive warnings

Boston-area bars have been given warnings by Boston’s Licensing Board for violating food licenses. PHOTO BY HILLARY LARSON/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Boston-area bars have been given warnings by Boston’s Licensing Board for violating food licenses. PHOTO BY HILLARY LARSON/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

After a hearing in front the Boston’s Licensing Board Tuesday, Mary Ann’s Bar and the Beacon Hill Pub were given warnings for violating their food licenses, but some students questioned the law requiring bars to sell food.

Several bars in the Boston area have been given warnings for violating their food licenses. The suspicion began when Boston Police Department implemented police officers in Great Scott, O’Brien’s Pub, Mary Ann’s Bar and the Beacon Hill Pub, said Nicole Murati Ferrer, chair of Boston’s Licensing Board.

Ferrer said bars in possession of a common victualler’s license, a license that allows an establishment to sell both food and liquor, must sell food.

“Under chapter 140, the law requires them to serve some type of food,” she said.

The food sold by each establishment varies according to what they presented to the board, Ferrer said.

“It’s on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “I can’t tell you what would qualify as food in one place versus another. It also depends on what was originally presented to the board. If you originally presented to the board that you were only going to serve muffins, then muffins are enough.”

After the bars’ hearing on Tuesday, the board found that Great Scott and O’Brien’s Pub do serve food, fulfilling their victualler’s license, but not at the time the police officers were in the establishments, Ferrer said.

Mary Ann’s Bar and the Beacon Hill Pub admitted to not serving food at all, Ferrer said.

An anonymous source from Mary Ann’s Bar said he thought the snack machine in Mary Ann’s acted as the sale of food.

“As far as I know, we have a snack machine and that satisfies the requirement for food service,” he said.

Other bars given a warning by the licensing board declined to comment.

Ferrer said the bars would not have to go through the process of applying again in order to change their license.

“All Beacon Hill and Mary Ann’s would have to do is file a petition to change the classification of their license from a common victualler to a general law premise license,” she said. “They wouldn’t have to go through the process of applying again, they just have to change the classification if they choose not to serve food anymore.”

Some students questioned the law that requires bars to sell food if they have this license.

Anna Lee, a Boston University freshman in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said the law requiring bars with a victualler’s license to sell food is ridiculous.

“If you have a license, you have to serve food? That’s really silly. If you have a driver’s license, does that mean you have to drive?” she said.

Laura Cha, a College of Fine Arts sophomore, said she understood why the bars might want to sell just liquor instead of food.

“A pub with food attracts a different crowd than one with only alcohol,” Cha said. “It turns into more of a restaurant than a bar,
and maybe that’s not what they want. And also, food management isn’t necessarily a cheap thing.”

Cha said she didn’t understand why the bars didn’t change their classification.

“I think the law is a little flawed, but if you have to adhere to it, why not just change your license? It seems like an easy enough process to me,” she said.

Other students said they would like to go to a bar that sells both food and liquor.

“I didn’t know it was illegal for bars not to serve food when they have a food license,” said Brian Ferreri, a College of Engineering
junior. “I would rather go to a bar that serves both food and liquor. A snack machine isn’t really serving food.”

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