Having a liquor license can be "make or break" for a restaurant's success, they're so highly coveted and so valuable, insiders say, the licensing system in Boston is ripe for trouble.

That's because in big-money Boston, it's all about supply and demand.

Currently, roughly 1,200 liquor licenses for restaurants and bars may be issued by the city's licensing board.

But right now not one new license is available.

In Boston:

Applicants must be approved by the local and state licensing board.

The number of licenses is determined and capped by the State Legislature.

If you want to sell your license, you can. City and state licensing boards must approve the transfer, but there's no limit on the sales price. And that price can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In other communities:

Applicants must be approved by the local and state licensing boards.

The number of liquor licenses allowed is tied to population.

Selling licenses is allowed.

The local and state boards approve the transfer.

But in many places, liquor licenses are available. Since there's a ready supply, there's no demand causing big money license sales.

Insiders told us, a license in Boston's Tony Back Bay recently sold for $400,000.

But the current economic situation may affect this expensive commerce.

If restaurants start closing, and no one can afford big bucks to buy their license, some predict all those big money transactions may be a thing of the past.

(Copyright (c) 2008 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox