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Q. (NEW in 2020) I was on the ballot last year, do I still need to nominate my business?

A. Yes, you will need to nominate your business. No businesses will automatically be on the ballot this year. With over 5,000 nominees on the 2019 ballot, it became too long and difficult to navigate. Though you self-nominate your business, readers still do the voting.

Q. (NEW in 2020) How many subcategories can I self-nominate a business for?

A. Each business is allowed a total of 10 nominations*, this is to encourage quality and focus for both entrants and voters, as well as streamline and condense the ballot. We have heard from both readers and nominees that the ballot is too long and many businesses do not belong in the subcategories for which they are nominated. *If you feel strongly that your business should be in more than 10 subcategories, please contact us.

Q. (NEW in 2020) Why is there a fee to self-nominate this year?

A. There is a $25 fee* to formally register for this year’s ballot. This fee covers the confirmation and quality control efforts for the Readers’ Choice ballot process, updates to the voting software, and content publishing platforms. It is $25 to enter up to 10 subcategories. *If your organization is a non-profit, please contact us about waiving the nomination fee.

Q. (NEW in 2020) How long is the self-nomination process open?

A. The self-nomination process will be open throughout the duration of the voting period, allowing for new nominees to be added after the official February 1, 2020 launch date through to the end date of May 1, 2020.

Q. I nominated my business for nine subcategories, but it is only appearing in 7 subcategories. Why is that?

A. All entries are still subject to editorial approval. If, for example you select alfresco dining and have no patio, we reserve the right to remove the business from the ballot.

Q. If I choose not to self-nominate for a Readers’ Choice Award, does my business still qualify for an Editors’ Choice Award?

A. Yes. There is no fee to be considered for an Editors’ Choice Award.

Q. When is the 2020 BONS Event? How do I buy tickets? Stay tuned! The 2020 BONS Event venue and date has not been announced yet. All winners receive two complimentary General Admissions tickets.

Terms & Conditions:

– Only local nominees and winners: In the past, we have allowed regional or national chains to qualify as nominees. Beginning in 2015, only local organizations and locally owned franchises will be qualified nominees. If you have any questions about your business or organization’s eligibility, please contact us at

– Disqualification for buying votes: In the past, some establishments have traded votes for services or discounts. This is not allowed. If we see a marketing mailer, website ad, social media post, etc., that offers a discount or free service with proof of a vote, we will remove your organization from the nomination forms. No refunds will be issued for disqualified nominees.

– Individual locations: Businesses with multiple locations will be recognized by the specific location. For example, if a business has locations in Salem, Peabody, and Andover, each location will have it’s own nomination.

– Registration information: Your email is required to register to vote. These emails will not be distributed or sold to third-parties. We will contact you via this email for updates on BONS. If you opted-in for special emails, you will be added to those lists. You may unsubscribe at any time.

– No new categories were added for BONS 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: How did you select the businesses for the drop-down menu?

A:  Businesses must self-register. New candidates will be added based upon editorial approval from  February 1, 2020 to May 1, 2020.

Q: How can I add my business to the drop-down list?

A: Once your business is submitted, it will be added to the drop-down during our next site update. All nominees require an admin fee and are subject to editorial approval.

Q: Why is there no “submit” button? How do I know my vote was counted?

A: All votes are automatically saved in the backend ballot system. You may change your vote at any time throughout the voting period. You will know what your vote in each category is because the icon will change from the red “Vote” button to the green “Voted!” button.

Q: Can I leave the survey and return later to complete it?

A: Yes, you may return to the survey at any time during the voting period to change your vote.

Q: If I exit the survey without saving, will my answers still be there?

A: Yes, votes are automatically saved in the ballot.

Q: Can I encourage my friends, family, patrons to vote for my business?

A: Yes, of course! Please share BONS voting via any of the social sharing tools on the voting page. We also have a BONS Resources page full of banner ads, logos, and social headers. But, please remember that you cannot buy votes by offering something in exchange for a vote. If you have any questions about how to campaign for votes, please email

Q: Do votes have to come from only people who live on the North Shore?

A: No, people can vote from anywhere in the world. Votes are not limited to only people currently residing on the North Shore.

Q: How are votes counted? Can I vote more than once for the same establishment?

A: Votes are tallied by the amount of unique votes each business receives. You are not allowed to vote for the same subcategory more than once.

Q: Why do I have to enter my email address to vote?

A: Our system requires a verifiable email address for each vote to ensure that all votes for each category are unique.

Q: What if I did not receive a confirmation email after I registered? 

A: Please check your SPAM filter or junk file. If you still do not have a confirmation, email us at from the email address you are trying to register.

Q: Why is subcategory ABC not included as a BONS category?

A: Each year subcategories change. To establish which categories are to be used for the current year, the BONS team looks at previous years’ votes and ongoing business trends. Unfortunately, when it comes to changing sub-categories there is a limit to how many additional ones can be added.

Q: What happened to the NEST category?

A: There are now two new BONS Awards, one of which is the annual BONS Home Awards, as part of our sister publication, Northshore Home. Voting begins in June.

Q: Can you add a subcategory this year? Next year?

A: Categories and subcategories cannot be changed or added this year, however the BONS team always takes suggestions into consideration.

Q: When will winners be announced?

A: Voting is open through May 1, 2020. Winners are announced in the BONS issue of Northshore magazine, which will mail out and appear on newsstands in late-July.

Q: What is the difference between Readers’ Choice and an Editors’ Choice Awards?

A: Readers’ Choice Awards are those establishments who receive the most votes via our open, online voting system. Editors’ Choices are selected by our internal team based on research and site visits.

Q: I commented on Facebook, Twitter, or on your website. Does that count as a vote?

A: No, only actual votes via the drop down submission process will be counted. But, we encourage comments so that other voters can see why you think your nominee is the Best of the North Shore!