A fancy Hub hotel has been barred from offering its guest a refreshing alcoholic beverage when they arrive for a stay, at least until officials decide if the establishment is in violation of certain state laws.
Representatives from the Liberty Hotel went before the Boston Licensing Board on Tuesday after being busted by detectives from the Boston Police Department on August 13 for serving up flute glasses of fine Champagne to patrons.
According to Licensing Board Chairwoman Nicole Murati Ferrer, giving away free drinks is a violation of state law.
Rules set by the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission state that a restaurant or hotel cannot offer any free drinks unless it is part of a meal or package, said Ferrer.
According to the officer that made the bust, after checking in at the hotel, customers were being served chilled sparkling wine which was housed behind the front desk along with special glassware.
The manager of the hotel was present when police confronted the establishment and reported that guests were asked if they wanted a beverage courtesy of the hotel.
On Tuesday, Attorney William Coyne, Jr., who was representing the Liberty Hotel, told the Licensing Board that the manager kept records of all the alcohol purchased and that the establishment paid taxes on the retail value of the champagne.
“There is not a free drink in this setting, there is in fact a transaction as evidence of the tax being added and paid to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Coyne argued.
Ferrer referred Coyne to the ABCC’s website, saying it was a violation of the state’s “Happy Hour laws.”
“I see what you are saying, but the law is there and the statute is there,” said Ferrer.
The board will reconvene Thursday, after a second public hearing, and vote on the matter, she said.
The manager of the hotel said the Liberty is paying for the drinks, and the Commonwealth is benefiting by the tax.
“These are not free drinks by definition, someone pays for them,” she said during Tuesday’s initial hearing.
Ferrer said if the board finds that the hotel is “in violation,” it could take action ranging anywhere from a warning to “basically suspending a license.”
“We have the discretion to say if…they can’t serve alcohol…it all depends on what the board decides,” she said.
Until then, customers checking in at the Charles Street spot will have to settle for some non-alcoholic beverages, which are being served up by the hotel staff instead of the sparkling champagne.