Cutting the Red Tape: Local Musicians and Small Businesses Singing for Boston’s New Approach to Live Entertainment

Guest Post by Kristen Scanlon, Scanlon Law LLC


Last month, Mayor Walsh signed the Acoustic Live Entertainment Ordinance, allowing neighborhood businesses in certain districts to host acoustic performances without having to obtain a live entertainment license or zoning change of occupancy. Effective this year, businesses licensed and registered with the City Clerk and located within Boston business districts, may now host acoustic performances subject to the following regulations:

  • Performances will be allowed from 10:00AM – 10:00PM;
  • Up to five acoustic performers or musicians may be at the venue at one time;
  • Amplification is limited to one microphone;
  • Food and drinks may be served only in licensed food establishments or bars; and
  • The venue must be handicap accessible during performances.

So where are Boston’s “business districts”? For purposes of the Boston Zoning Code, there are two classes of business districts: local (“L”) and general (“B”). In Back Bay, zoning maps reveal that all of Newbury and Boylston Streets, from Arlington St. to Massachusetts Ave. fall into districts designated as “B” districts, effectively opening the doors for Back Bay businesses to benefit from the ordinance while incentivizing customers with a fresh, new way to “shop local”.

The program will run throughout 2017 on a one-year pilot program, renewable at the end of this year. Lead by City Council President Michelle Wu, this is the first ordinance aimed at alleviating the burdensome application, hearing, and fee requirements for Boston’s thousands of small businesses to host acoustic live entertainment performances.


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