Keg Sale Policies Could Tighten

Keg purchasers in Boston may soon need to bring proof of address as well as an ID to the liquor store if a new ordinance regulating keg sales is passed, as expected, on Thursday.

Boston City Councilor-At-Large and Chairman of Public Safety on the Boston City Council Stephen J. Murphy proposed the move in September in a bid to curb excessive drinking, particularly by students.

The ordinance will require all liquor stores in the Boston area to report the names, addresses and birthdates of anyone buying a keg to the Boston Police Department (BPD). Right now, keg sales are logged in-store, and the information is required to go no further than that.

The legislation does not extend to Cambridge and other districts on the outskirts of Boston, but it does include Allston, where liquor stores like Blanchards and Marty’s are located. These stores are popular among Harvard students, according to Ian W. Nichols ’06, the founder and “Beer Czar” of the Harvard Beer Society.

Murphy said that he had been spurred into action by a meeting he had with Boston Police officials after the death of Emerson student Victoria Snelgrove at the Red Sox celebrations last year.

“[They] indicated that the biggest problem the police had was students not in student housing throwing parties,” Murphy said. “And then a couple of days later we discovered that there were in four neighbourhoods of Boston 67 kegs of beer [that night].”

He said that he thought the ordinance would have a real effect on helping the BPD monitor parties.

“A police captain might know at six or seven o’clock in the evening that seven or eight kegs of beer are going to a known student house, rather than at four in the morning,” he said.

Daniel F. Pokaski, chairman of the Boston Licensing Board, agreed that this regulation was a necessary step towards targeting parties in problem areas before they got out of control.

“Certain areas are hotspots in Boston; these are areas with a lot of student housing,” Pokaski said. “Most of the parties that are going on and disturbing neighbors and have underage drinking are keg parties.”

However, he was dubious about whether the ordinance would be a complete solution to the problem. He cited all the loopholes that students might take advantage of in the legislation, such as giving a false address or underage drinkers asking older students to buy the kegs for them.

“Do I think it’s going to solve it? Absolutely not,” he said. “It’s a tool, a red flag to police.”

Murphy, on the other hand, said that he thought that his proposal could actually help to reduce underage drinking, since it means that the purchaser of the keg is more overtly responsible for its use.

“Liquor stores are fine with it and the neighborhoods are thrilled with it,” he said.

But Joe Gomes, manager of Blanchards, was unaware of the ordinance’s imminent arrival and displeased by the idea.

“They proposed something years ago that was blatantly unconstitutional that got swatted down real fast,” he said. “I’ve no idea what they’re trying to do now.”

The proposal is set to go through the Boston Licensing Board on Thursday and is expected to be passed.

“It hasn’t been adopted yet but probably will be by the end of the week,” Pokaski said.

Nichols said that he was unsure what the repercussions of the ordinance would be but that he was not opposed to it in principle.

“The new law will most likely discourage the most unruly forms of drinking, as those who purchase the kegs are held more liable for how the keg is used,” he said. “This may also encourage the purchasing of better beer, which is much more conducive to safe drinking anyway.”

–Staff writer Alexandra C. Bell can be reached at acbell@fas.harvard.edu.