Active Food Establishment Licenses in Boston

This blog post contains a summary of the data on active food establishment licenses in Boston Mass. provided by Analyze Boston.

There are 112 licensed Dunkin’ Donuts in Boston Mass. (ten of those under the name “DUNKIN'” and two “DUNKIN DONUT”). One quick scroll through the comprehensive list of restaurant licenses and the lengthy string of donut dunking certifications is the most prominent and immediately noticeable data point.

Contained within this dataset alongside both the street addresses and longitude and latitude coordinates of each establishment, are the licensing statuses, categories, descriptions and date of issue down to the time of day. That dataset also contains the property ID, which likely makes this list of restaurants easy to compare to the larger umbrella of properties, and a mysterious column of numbers referred to as “dayphn.” A Google search for the term “dayphn” only turns up another Emerson student’s previous rendition of this same assignment in which they asked the same question!

Assignment Questions

Who collects this data set? If it’s an organization, which department of the organization? Is there a specific person listed who you could contact?

There are two groups responsible for the collection and publication of this dataset. The collector, The City of Boston, gathers the data through The Health Division of the Department of Inspectional Services. The publisher of the data, the Department of Innovation and Technology made the data available for download from Analyze Boston, an open database provided by The City of Boston. The Department of Innovation and Technology has listed itself as the point of contact through the email

Why do you think the organization collects this data? Does it specify how it uses the data?

This data must be collected and maintained by The City of Boston in order for them to properly monitor the many restaurants that operate within the city. In order for the Health Department to conduct regular inspections and ensure that licensed establishments are operating within the regulations set forth by the city, this data set would need to always be up to date and easily readable. There aren’t serious specifications for how to use the data since it seems like a pretty self-explanatory listing system.

What time period does the data set cover?

This dataset was accessed on Feb. 4, 2022, and contains the status of all licenses from December 2006 to now.

What are some questions you have about this data set?

The first and most obvious question is just to find out what the “dayphn” number means and why it is significant among these other very straightforward data points. However, I would also like to know the demographic breakdown of the ownership of these licenses. As part of a roundtable for her campaign, Mayor Wu brought up that there are only eight Black-owned liquor licenses in Boston among the thousands listed in this table. If you organized the license by neighborhood, it could give you some insight into the demographic breakdown, but still wouldn’t provide all the needed context to address the issue.

Who are the types of people you could interview about this data set in order to learn more?

The most obvious direction to turn for initial inquiries into the data set would be at the contact listed for the publisher of the data, the Department of Innovation and Technology. They would be the most likely source to answer most of the straightforward questions about the method of collection and how the data is used. For more in-depth questions about what it looks like to see this data function in the day-to-day operation, I would go to The Health Division of the Department of Inspectional Services.

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