license commission

Alcohol License, Annual—On Premise (restaurants, hotels & clubs)


One Day Alcohol License


Alcohol License, Annual—On Premise (restaurants, hotels & clubs)

Issued by: License Commission

Governed By: Massachusetts General Law ch. 138, sec. 12 and Cambridge Regulations

Process Length: Expect a minimum of eight to ten weeks

Fee: $175 hearing and advertising fee; $10 for each record check; $200 for Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC). The annual license fee for a new no-value no-transferable license is on a sliding scale from $2450/year and up.

Notes:  Some areas of Cambridge have a cap on liquor licenses. 



Step 1:

For a new alcohol license or to transfer an existing alcohol license, the applicant will be required to complete the following License Commission and ABCC forms:

  1. typed ABCC Form
  2. typed Liquor License Application
  3. typed Common Victualer Application
  4. Criminal Record Check Form
  5. Licensed Premises Inspection Approval (to be taken to Inspectional Services)
  6. Licensee Personal Information Sheet
  7. if the liquor license is being transferred, there are additional forms which must be completed

Additional information to be provided to the License Commission includes:

  1. a copy of a DBA Certificate/Business Certificate (if an individual or a partnership doing business under a different name)
  2. a copy of a dated and time-stamped Articles of Organization (if a corporation)
  3. floor plan (on 8.5”x11” paper)
  4. a vote of the Board of Directors (if a corporation)
  5. proof of citizenship (birth certificate, voter’s registration card, or a valid U.S. Passport)
  6. a menu
  7. a signed lease or a letter of intent from the landlord
  8. a copy of a purchase and sale agreement (for transfer applicants)
  9. a Certificate of Good Standing from the Department of Revenue 

Step 2:

Submit the Licensed Premises Inspection Approval form to Inspectional Services for zoning approval.

Step 3:

The applicant must submit all completed forms and other required documentation to the License Commission. For transfer applications, the applicant must also submit a copy of the purchase & sales agreement. A hearing will be scheduled. Prior to the hearing, the applicant is encouraged to contact neighborhood groups and abutters. Hearings typically address such issues as noise, trash, parking, overall operation & character of applicant and manager. At this time, the applicant will pay $175 for a hearing and advertising fee, and an additional $10 for each record check. A money order or a cashier’s check for $200, payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, must also be submitted. A hearing will be held on the second or fourth Tuesday of every month.

At the decision hearing, the License Commission will approve or disapprove the proposed business. If approved, the License Commission will forward the application to the ABCC for final approval. If disapproved, the applicant can appeal to ABCC within five days of the receipt of the License Commission’s decision.The ABCC is a state agency which issues final approval or disapproval. Upon reaching a decision, the application is forwarded back to the License Commission. Upon ABCC approval, the License Commission will issue an approval letter explaining remaining fees and inspection approvals due before a license is issued.

Step 4:

Inspectional Services will then inspect the premises for compliance with building and sanitary codes and, if approved, issue building and health sign-offs. If the applicant already has a current Certificate of Occupation and Certificate of Inspection, ISD building sign-off is not required.

If the applicant has a valid food handler’s permit, ISD health sign-off is not required.

Step 5:

The Fire Department will automatically inspect the site based on the License Commission’s hearing agenda.

Visiting City Hall

Cambridge City Hall

795 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge MA, 02139
Ph: 617-349-4000
TTY: 617-349-4242

Hours of Service

Monday: 8:30am-8pm
Tuesday-Thursday: 8:30am-5pm
Friday: 8:30am-12pm

Louis DePasquale
City Manager

Lisa C. Peterson
Deputy City Manager