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License Commission

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Please see City of Cambridge Covid-19 webpage for the latest City of Cambridge updates and the State Covid-19 webpage for the latest updates from the Governor and other State Agencies


Pursuant to Chapter 2 of the Acts of 2023 adopted by Massachusetts General Court and approved by the Governor, all meetings of the Board of License Commissioners and Pole and Conduit Commission are held remotely via Zoom.  Public webinar links are created and posted so the public can access the meetings.  As previously accustomed by the Department, full audio recordings of the meetings are posted on the minutes page (along with the minutes of the meetings once approved).

Please note, Applications to the Board of License Commissioners and Pole & Conduit Commission may continue to be submitted through the online permitting, licensing and renewal system, https://cambridgema.portal.opengov.com/.


The License Commission has transitioned to a new online permitting, licensing and renewal system, https://cambridgema.portal.opengov.com/. To apply new, renew, make changes to an existing license, or login to access your current records please go to: https://cambridgema.portal.opengov.com/.


The Cambridge License Commission, which is a three person Board, is responsible for issuing licenses/permits and enforcing rules, regulations, local ordinances and state laws that regulate the service and sale of alcoholic beverages, operation of restaurants, hotels and lodging houses, indoor and outdoor entertainment, hackney drivers and vehicles, parking lots and garages, flammables, peddlers, fortune tellers, second hand goods stores, letting and sale of motor vehicles, commercial leaf blower operators and one day licenses for alcohol and/or entertainment.  The Department also manages the Pole and Conduit Commission and enforces the Noise Control Ordinance.


Our goal is to ensure all licensed or permitted businesses operate in a manner that protect the public safety and serve the common good.  We strive to provide professional and streamlined services, as well as excellent customer service.  Our Inspectors and Hackney Officers conduct inspections to ensure proper operating practices and hold disciplinary hearings when appropriate to ensure accountability.  We foster partnerships with licensees, residents, neighborhood organizations and policymakers to encourage successful endeavors.


The License Commission is comprised of the Chairperson, Nicole Murati Ferrer, and two other Commissioners -- the Cambridge Fire Chief and Police Commissioner. 
The Pole and Conduit Commission is comprised of the Chairperson, Nicole Murati Ferrer, Commissioner Terrence James Shea, Superintendent of Streets, and Commissioner Mark Melo, City Electrician.   

How We Review Applications

The Process

Many types of businesses need to be licensed by the Cambridge License Commission before they are able to conduct business within the City of Cambridge. Find out whether you need a license/permit from us:

Alcohol License - Retail On and Off Premise

Common Victualer

Entertainment License

Innholder and Lodging House Licenses                    

Hackney License

Garage and Flammables

Pole Conduit Permits                                

Other Licenses

One-Day Licenses

Transportation Licenses

Shops and Sales Licenses                                      

Whenever you apply for a license/permit, the Board of License Commissioners may hold a hearing to decide whether the license will be granted. The Board holds meetings, which are open to the public, every month, check the hearing schedule to find out when the next hearing is. Learn more about our hearings below.

Appealing a Decision

Depending on the matter, type of license/permit and/or action taken by the Board of License Commissioners, its decisions are appealable to other agencies or Massachusetts Superior Court. You should ask about your appeal rights and should note that the timeline in which to file an appeal depends on the matter at hand. 


Violation hearings can be based on a complaint received, a CAD or police incident report, or an inspection conducted by the Cambridge Police or a License Commission Investigator or designee.  Hearings are open to the public, and any person testifying as to the matter must do so under oath.  Any person cited for a violation hearing may present evidence through witness testimony, photographs, videos, documents, etc.  The Board decides cases based on the evidence presented to it at the hearing and may take into account any previous complaints and/or disciplinary action. 

How much do you charge for copies of documents?

Public records fees are as follows**:

Copies - first 50 pages are free.

$.05/page for black and white 8.5" x 11" 

$.20/page for black and white legal size

$.30/page for color 8.5" x 11"

$.40/page for color legal size

The time spent by the License Commission staff to find, segregation, file, archive, and redact will be billed if more than two (2) hours.

* Please note that many of our files contain information that is not public and that must be redacted by law.  Therefore, even if you seek to view a file during our "viewing hours," depending on the size of the file, contents therein and whether the proper staff person to remove the non-public information is available, you may have to make an appointment for a later day or time to view the file. 

** This is not a comprehensive list of all applicable fees.  No fees will be charged until an estimate has been provided to the requester.

What licenses are NOT issued by the License Commission?

The Cambridge License Commission does not issue all types of licenses. The following are examples of licenses which are issued by other departments or state agencies. For a more comprehensive list, please see the state Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation website.

License Type Contact Information and Application
Architects Division of Professional Licensure  Information 
Barbers   Division of Professional Licensure  Information
Birth Certificate   Can by obtained at the Clerk's Office of the City or Town your parents lived in at time of birth or where you mother was located when you were born.
Cigarette Sellers License Department of Revenue   Online Information
Death Certificates City Clerk 617.349.4260
Driver's License - Auto Registry of Motor Vehicles   Online Information
Employment Agencies  Department of Labor Standards 617.727.3696
Financial Advisors   Secretary of State Securities Division  617.727.3548
Fishing License Dept. of Fish & Game Division of Fisheries & Wildlife  
Marriage Licenses Handled by

Local Governments  
City Clerk's Office

Nurses Division of Registration   Online Information
Social Workers Division of Registration   Online Information

What Happens at Public Hearings

General Hearing Information

The Cambridge License Commission holds General Public Hearing at least twice monthly. At the General Public Hearing we hold hearings for license violations, hearings for businesses who are petitioning for a license, permits for one-day licenses and administrative matters.  

Search our Public Calendar for License Commission hearings. Agenda will be posted no later than 48 hours prior to a hearing.
Scheduled items are tentative prior to posting of an official Agenda or Hearing Notice. Refer to the posted Agenda for a full list of scheduled items.
Please check the agenda for the time and location of particular meetings.

Please note: All One-Day Application must be submitted to the Commission by the Thursday two weeks preceding the event. Applications can be filed online. The application must be filled out completely, and bear the applicant’s signature and that of the Police Commissioner’s or designee when submitted. 
We'll let you know when to expect the hearing when you apply.

Types of Hearings

There are two types of Hearings: 

License Violations Hearings: 
During license violation matters we hear from:
  • police officers
  • any victims of the violation
  • people who witnessed the violation, and
  • the person who allegedly violated their license.

We'll make a decision of violation, no violation, deferment, or no action. 

If there was a violation, we may charge fines or other penalties.

License Petition Hearings:
During License petition matters we speak with:
  • the petitioner or license holder
  • witnesses, community members, and neighbors
  • neighborhood associations, and
  • City officials who are in favor of or against the petition.


I Want to Testify

If you have something to say, you can testify at a hearing. We accept testimonies based on the type of hearing:
  • Only witnesses and victims can testify at violation hearings.
  • Anyone can testify at a business petition hearing, whether you support or are against the cause.
There are several ways to give us your testimony:

Cambridge License Commission
831 Massachusetts Avenue, 1st Floor
Cambridge, MA 02139

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