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Boston Liquor License Holders Attend Mandatory 'Educational' Zoom Meetings With Licensing Board

An employee at Trillium Brewing Fenway packs up umbrellas used for patron seating in the beer garden. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
An employee at Trillium Brewing Fenway packs up umbrellas used for patron seating in the beer garden. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Patrons in Boston's restaurants have to wear masks. Tables have to be at least 6 feet apart. And emotional support animals are not allowed inside.

Restaurants operators with liquor licenses reviewed these and other pandemic-related policies during one of several online sessions with the Boston Licensing Board scheduled for Thursday and Friday. The digital meetings come amid an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the state, and an increase in complaints about restaurants. Failure to attend the would result in licenses being revoked, according to the licensing board's Zoom invite.

You could call the five sessions friendly reminders to the businesses, according to Kathleen Joyce, the board's chairwoman.

"This is meant to be conversational and educational in nature," she said. "This is not a disciplinary hearing at all."

Joyce said she and the board know "the majority of our licensees are working hard" to adhere to strict and ever-changing guidelines. And she thanked everyone on Thursday's Zoom call for the high level of compliance.

"... we're trying to do the right thing and if there's a corrective measure that needs to happen, I just don't know who to talk to around that with the state."

Matthew Malloy

Joyce said the rise in complaints doesn't necessarily mean licensees aren't operating safely.

"Some of the complaints come from people who are afraid when they drive by or they're at a restaurant and they see the staff not wearing masks or they see what  appears to be tables clustered together ... We have not seen that when we've gone out and done our inspections," Joyce said. "What we have seen is people trying to operate safely."

Matthew Malloy, co-founder of Dorchester Brewing Company, said he's sure he's been following guidelines (even hired a lawyer to make sure) yet he said he's been cited by the state.

He's frustrated at the lack of communication from regulators.

"Is there a better way to work with the state? Like, they don't even have a number. They don't respond to emails," Malloy said Thursday. "They're probably so busy. But we're trying to do the right thing and if there's a corrective measure that needs to happen, I just don't know who to talk to around that with the state."

Members of the licensing board said they had no idea Dorchester Brewing was fined by the state.

Despite the regulatory review, there were some matters that neither the board nor the operators could suss out, like how patrons could get buffet-style food without forming a line.

"That is something that we're looking for clarification as well," said board member Lesley Delaney Hawkins.

Licensing Board Board members told the business operators that they were working on information for licensees to share with customers about what precautions are being taken.

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Quincy Walters Twitter Reporter
Quincy Walters is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.

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