City questions Sox plan for mixed drinks

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By Michael Rezendes
Globe Staff / March 31, 2011

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As the Boston Red Sox prepare for their April 8 home opener at Fenway Park, the team is moving to expand the sale of mixed alcoholic beverages throughout the historic ballpark, drawing concerns from Boston police and Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

Representatives of the Red Sox told the Boston Licensing Board last week that the team wants the right to sell mixed drinks, in addition to beer, “at a limited number of stations’’ throughout the 37,000-seat stadium and on Yawkey Way. Currently, hard liquor is available mainly at refreshment stands serving fans with upper-level premium seats.

The proposal appeared to surprise Boston police and a representative of the mayor, prompting the three-member board to postpone a vote until after a second hearing, scheduled for next Wednesday.

“The police wanted an opportunity to be heard on the issue; and, also, some community members wanted a chance to speak,’’ board chairwoman Nicole Murati Ferrer said yesterday. In addition, Ferrer said, board members want to see a detailed plan from the Red Sox that describes how the team will monitor the serving of mixed alcoholic beverages.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino, underscoring longstanding concern about drinking and rowdy Red Sox fans, said yesterday that he believes the team should continue to restrict the consumption of mixed drinks.

“The mayor would not be inclined to support the proposal as written,’’ said Dot Joyce, the mayor’s spokeswoman. “He would be inclined to support something confining alcohol consumption to specific areas, but not allowing it through the entire stadium.’’

Joyce also said Menino does not want the Red Sox to increase the number of fans permitted to take mixed drinks to their seats.

At the hearing last week, Red Sox officials said the mixed drinks available to fans in general seating areas would contain no more alcohol than the beer that is currently sold.

The Red Sox will be hoping to win support from two members of the three-member board, Murati Ferrer and Michael J. Connolly. Last week, board member Suzanne Iannella recused herself from the vote because her sister-in-law, Arlene Iannella, owns HUB Security Systems, which provides non-game-time overnight and weekend security at Fenway Park.

Arlene Iannella is married to Richard Iannella, the outgoing register of Suffolk Probate and Family Court.

If the city approves the Red Sox proposal, the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission would still need to approve it.

Police voiced concern about the Red Sox proposal last Wednesday, the day of the hearing, when Boston Police Superintendent William B. Evans, chief of the department’s bureau of field services, filed a letter with the board, saying the department was not notified of the hearing. “I feel public safety will be jeopardized,’’ Evans wrote.

A representative of Menino’s Office of Neighborhood Services initially supported the proposal, but later filed a letter withdrawing his support.

“During my testimony, I did not fully understand what was being requested by the applicant,’’ William Onuoha said. “I strongly request that any action taken on this application be deferred until such time that any or all public safety concerns have been addressed by the Boston Police Department.’’

Yesterday, Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said that, after the hearing, a Red Sox official told police that the sale of mixed drinks would be restricted to five locations accessible to all Red Sox fans, a number Evans said may be acceptable.

“The good news is the Red Sox have reached out to us and clarified their position with us,’’ Davis said. “There are only five locations inside the park where they want to expand, and that’s a much more manageable request.’’

However, Davis and his spokeswoman, Elaine Driscoll, said they do not know whether the Red Sox plan to sell mixed drinks on Yawkey Way, which is closed to vehicular traffic on game days and open only to Red Sox ticket holders, or whether the Red Sox plan to allow fans to take mixed drinks to their seats.

Driscoll said police will withhold support from the Red Sox until they are able to review an updated written proposal.

“We’re still awaiting a final plan,’’ she said.

At the hearing, the Red Sox said 23 other Major League Baseball stadiums have similar alcohol sales policies.

They also said the plan is comparable to operations at TD Garden, where, a spokeswoman said, mixed drinks are available to fans, regardless of their seating, at seven refreshment stands. All ticket holders are allowed to take the drinks to their seats.

At Gillette Stadium, New England Patriots fans may buy two varieties of machine-mixed alcoholic beverages, margaritas and a rum drink, from about a dozen specialty carts on the concourse level, spokesman Stacey James said. The organization began selling margaritas three years ago and added the rum drink a year ago, James said, adding that fans are allowed to take the drinks to their seats.

But alcohol and Fenway fans have not always mixed well. In 2005, after a four-year period during which the Red Sox added sixteen stands where beer is sold, a surge in complaints about inebriated fans and a scuffle between a fan and Yankees leftfielder Gary Sheffield prompted the team to nearly double its staff of alcohol compliance supervisors.

In 2004, after the Red Sox victory over the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, police fired pepper-pellet guns in a crowd that had turned violent, killing 21-year-old Victoria Snelgrove, an Emerson College student. Snelgrove’s family received a $5 million settlement from the city.

But a Fenway community activist said yesterday that the neighborhood’s relationship with the Red Sox has improved, noting that the team held a community meeting March 16 to announce its plan to increase the sale of mixed drinks.

“It’s a different day with the Red Sox now,’’ said Dharmena Downey, executive director of the Fenway Community Development Corporation. “If this becomes an issue, they’ll work with us.’’

Michael Rezendes can be reached at