• What diners need to know about Boston's new BYOB program

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    BOSTON - For many diners, a cold beer or a nice glass of wine is the perfect complement to their meal.  But in Boston, a lot of smaller restaurants can’t afford a liquor license, and that’s if they could even get one.

    Now a new program will let customers “BYOB” in many of the city’s neighborhoods.

    For example, it’s now possible to pour your own glass of wine at the Seven Star Bistro in Roslindale.  It’s the first restaurant in the city to get a BYOB license.

    Owner and Chef Chris Lin says he’s the perfect candidate for the new program.

    “It’s limited to fringe neighborhoods, and limited to restaurants under 30 seats. We would just be happy to have BYOB bringing in more traffic and creating a fuller dining room. That’s really what it comes down to, just bringing in more customers," he said.

    Those customers can bring in one standard bottle of wine or the equivalent of about five beers. The license fee is just $400.

    That’s a tiny fraction of what it costs to be able to serve alcohol, according to Lin. “For a beer or wine license, $40,000-$70,000," he said. "For a full liquor license, maybe $400,000 depending on what type of license and where it is.”

    That’s clearly out of reach for many small family owned businesses.  City Council President Michelle Wu, who spearheaded the BYOB proposal, believes it can be an economic catalyst.

    “The goal of our outer lying neighborhoods, we have a lot of vacant spaces, that are often smaller footprints and a restaurant might not find it attractive under the previous law,” explained Wu. “The big fear that we heard from many of the more established restaurants was they have invested all this money, and then someone will open up next door.”

    That’s why only small restaurants, away from downtown, are eligible.

    Lin believes the city struck a good balance. “I don’t understand why a restaurant wouldn’t apply for a BYOB license if they meet those qualifications because it could only help.”

    Another requirement of a BYOB license is a provision that the staff at these restaurants receive training in alcohol service.

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