- Mobile

What are the rules about buying beer & liquor?

Current Patriots Twitter Feed:

SoCal Bong

Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job
Let me preface this by saying that I grew up in Hawaii and have now lived in California for the last 10 years where you can buy beer, wine and liquor at any grocery, convenience or liquor store from about 6am to midnight seven days a week so I'm not clear on the blue laws in Mass.

I remember being shocked back when I attended my first Patriots home game in 1999 (against the Colts) and stopping at a store to pick up some beer Sunday morning only to find out that was prohibited. I had to wait until I got in the stadium and pay $6 for a draft so it was a lesson learned the hard way.

I also recall that even Monday through Saturday, convenience stores (at least those in Boston) do not sell alcohol but there is a single 7-Eleven near the harbor area that was granted an exception a few years back. Is that still the only convenience store in Boston that sells beer and wine? or have laws been loosened up since then?

Can you buy alcohol at grocery stores? or only at liquor stores? are the liquor stores government run like in Washington State?

Are the rules all the same for the towns between Boston and Foxboro or are there places you can buy beer on Sunday morning if you forgot to get it a day in advance?

We plan on getting what we need on Saturday night when we arrive but I've had others ask me what they can do if they arrive on Sunday.

Is there any logic in the fact that bars and restaurants can serve liquor any day of the week but you can't purchase it for home consumption on Sundays?

Is it also true that Happy Hour is illegal in Mass? I seem to recall a bartender in Cambridge telling me that.

Any info you can provide for us non-New Englanders is appreciated.


Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job
Some convenience stores are allowed to sell beer on Sundays but only after 12:00 noon.

You will need to buy the beer on Saturday.


Staff member
I haven't lived in Massachusetts for a while so if anything I say is incorrect, please forgive me. Besides, if something I'm about to say is not factual I'm confident somebody will soon correct me.

Unlike many other states, Massachusetts for a very long time grouped beer and wine together with 'hard stuff'. In a way they were actually ahead of their time in recognizing that a person could get drunk on beer and wine just as easily as more potent stuff, but let's leave that discussion for another forum. Some convenience stores are now licensed to sell beer, but for the most part you need to rely on a package store for your purchases.

As I recall part of the old law was that to sell any type of alcoholic beverage you had to have a separate entrance/exit which eliminated stores whose primary sales were of food or other consumer goods. I also recall that at the time you could only have a very limited number of over the counter licenses to sell alcoholic beverages; as a result chain stores such as most supermarkets didn't bother. If that law is still in effect it might be different with convenience stores because nowadays most are franchises rather than being company-owned establishments.

As far as when you could or could not buy alcoholic beverages, it used to be up until 11 pm Monday thru Saturday for over the counter. Bars could serve till 1 am or 2 am seven days a week. Some snooty towns like Wellesley, Hingham and Needham were dry towns; sale of alcoholic beverages were prohibited. Rules vary town to town as long as they don't exceed state guidelines.

As far as I know you can buy beer on Sunday now, but only after 12 noon. So if you're going to the game you have to make your purchases Saturday. Looking back on my youth I think if anything the laws were counter productive; people would have a tendency to load up with more than enough on Saturday rather than risk having to drive to New Hampshire, look for a friend that could buy at the Navy base, or spend more money at a bar.

The liquor stores are not government run the way they are in New Hamphire and other states.

As far as the logic for the different times bars can sell versus over the counter, I don't know. I'm guessing somewhere along the line it was a concession to restaurants, as Sunday is typically one of their busiest days. Similarly, I guess it would be difficult for bars to stay in business if they had to close at 11. Maybe the thought process was that buying one drink at a time is not the same as buying 24 at once, who knows - though I'm pretty sure most states have different hours for bars and stores.

As for happy hour, yes, that was indeed banned. Back in the late '70's a politician by the name of Ed King made a name for himself by upsetting Dukakis and becoming governor on a tough on crime, lower taxes platform. One other thing he was big on was also getting tough on alcohol. The drinking age was raised from 18 to 21, and all drink specials were outlawed.

It was kind of crazy at first because at that time the law was so stringent that it was illegal to have two drinks at a time. In other words, you could not order a beer and a shot; to be legal you had to order your shot, drink it, then order your beer. Pitchers of beer suddenly became illegal, because they contained more than one drink. And as you noted, happy hours were outlawed - as was the bigger target, places that would charge a cover and then let you drink all you wanted, or have an outrageously low price per drink.

Perhaps somebody can update as to the current state, I'm sure some of what I have said has changed since then. But the bottom line is this: make your purchases on Saturday. As far as anybody that won't be arriving until very late Saturday, or until Sunday, my suggestion is that they work something out with you where they give you their order, and advance you some funds or repay you after you meet up. And if they think they can get around it by landing in Providence, I don't think that will work; if I recall they stopped their sales even earlier (9 or 10) on Saturday and re-opened for business at noon on Sunday.
Last edited: