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Sox, city reach deal on Fenway liquor sales

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By Michael Rezendes
Globe Staff / April 7, 2011

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The Boston Red Sox said yesterday that they have reached an agreement with Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Boston police, and several community groups to begin selling mixed alcoholic beverages to fans with seats throughout Fenway Park.

During a hearing before the Boston Licensing Board, Red Sox officials said they sealed the agreement during a Monday meeting with Boston police and other city officials. The Red Sox agreed to limit the sale of the mixed drinks to five refreshment stands and to move one of those stands farther away from the bleacher section.

The board could approve the proposal as early as today. The Red Sox would still need the approval of the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, a process that could take another month, said Dennis A. Quilty, the attorney who represented the Red Sox at the hearing.

Team officials and their representatives said that there would be no sales of straight hard liquor to fans in general seating areas, and that the alcohol content of the mixed drinks would be no greater than the alcohol content of a cup of beer.

To assuage the concerns of police and Menino, the Red Sox also agreed to halt the sale of mixed drinks two hours after the games begin. Beer sales are allowed until the end of the seventh inning or 2 1/2 hours after the game starts.

The Red Sox proposal initially drew concern from Menino and Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis because it appeared that it would allow the team to sell hard liquor at an unlimited number of locations throughout the historic ballpark. Currently, the sale of hard liquor — including on-the-rocks drinks and shots — is generally restricted to refreshment stands serving upper deck, premium seating areas.

Reservations about the Red Sox proposal were also raised by board chairwoman Nicole Murati Ferrer, who wanted team officials to provide a more detailed plan. As a result, the board scheduled yesterday’s hearing.

The concerns that were previously voiced by Menino and police stemmed from a variety of incidents during the mid-2000s, when beer sales at Fenway soared and complaints about inebriated fans and rowdy behavior rose significantly.

In 2005, after a four-year period during which the Red Sox added 16 stands that sold beer, there was a surge in complaints as well as a scuffle between a fan and Yankees left fielder Gary Sheffield, during which Sheffield was splashed with beer. The incidents prompted the team to nearly double its staff of alcohol compliance officers.

But yesterday, team officials and licensing board members agreed that the number of complaints about drunkenness at Fenway has dropped and that fan behavior in the bleachers — traditionally a flash point for rowdiness — has improved markedly.

Red Sox Senior Vice President Larry Cancro said, “It’s a completely different atmosphere there, and we want to keep it that way.’’

Michael Rezendes can be reached at rezendes@globe.com.