New Hampshire OKs Booze on New England Amtrak Route

State officials are working out a "creative solution" to avoid violating liquor laws.

Amtrak's Downeaster train pulls out of the station in Haverhill, Mass., July 10, 2012.
Amtrak's Downeaster train pulls out of the station in Haverhill, Mass., July 10, 2012.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Riders on an Amtrak train that runs from Maine to Boston can continue to buy alcoholic beverages during the 35-mile stretch of the trip that goes through New Hampshire as officials said they plan to work out a "creative solution" to avoid violating a state liquor law.

The Amtrak Downeaster takes passengers 145 miles (233 kilometers) from Brunswick, Maine, to Boston. The train includes a cafe car that serves alcohol.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, a quasi-government agency that has a service agreement with Amtrak, said it was told by the New Hampshire Liquor Commission that the train can't serve alcohol during the New Hampshire portion of the journey. There's a law that forbids serving alcohol that hasn't been purchased in the state.

The liquor commission "will initiate a simple change in statute to ensure there is no further confusion," to allow alcohol sales to continue, spokesperson E.J. Powers said Wednesday.

In a statement Tuesday, the commission said that the Massachusetts-based company that provides the train's food and beverage service "inadvertently acknowledged that it had been in violation" of New Hampshire's law as it was in the process of renewing its license to serve alcohol on the Downeaster.

The commission, which granted the renewal, said it is "exploring a creative solution, laying tracks for a unique partnership between New Hampshire and Maine."

Meanwhile, alcohol sales will continue as usual.

"It's our understanding that the liquor sales on board will not need to be suspended in New Hampshire, and we're very grateful of that," said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the rail authority.

The train brings hundreds of thousands of passengers to Boston every year, and its advertising sometimes plays up the ability to relax with a drink during the ride. It's a popular travel alternative for sports and concerts because the line ends just steps from TD Garden, one of New England's biggest performance venues.

Amtrak is aware that "customers on board the Downeaster are still able to continue purchasing alcoholic drinks from the cafe car when riding through New Hampshire," said Jason Abrams, an Amtrak representative.

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