Mitchell proposes adding liquor licenses in city

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said he wants to add more liquor licenses in the city as a way to spur economic development.

"Liquor licenses can be a big barrier to entry in the restaurant business. Here in New Bedford, in the downtown in particular, a liquor license can go for more than $50,000," Mitchell told NBC 10 on Wednesday.

That cost can make or break a start-up business.

The mayor is proposing adding 25 additional licenses and is seeking support from the City Council and others.

An insufficient supply of liquor licenses has driven up the prices way too much, the mayor said. He's suggesting that if one of the proposed new liquor licenses isn't used, it would revert back to the city and not be subject to resale.

"We believe that downtown New Bedford can have a much more vibrant restaurant scene. There's a lot of pent up demand and by removing this liquor license problem, we think we can open up the market," Mitchell said.

A news release from the mayor said a Massachusetts law dating back to Prohibition caps the number of liquor licenses that cities and towns can issue based on population.

Adding more licenses would also require the approval of state lawmakers.