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Brian McGrory

Go first class for a change

Maybe I need a hobby, but how much fun would it have been to be around Logan Airport that January night when three Boston police officers slipped past security, strode through the international terminal, and veered into the first-class departure lounges, bringing the long arm of the law?

Were they after drug traffickers? Terrorists? Dominique Strauss-Kahn?

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For these answers, let’s proceed directly to the police report, but please be warned: What occurred in the Virgin Airways Club is so shocking, the details so unsettling, that anyone of faint heart should stop reading immediately.

“Inside the club,’’ the report said, “detectives observed there to be 2 televisions and amplified music being played for the enjoyment of the customers.’’ It gets worse.

“Detectives also observed there to be food and alcohol being provided to the customers on a self-serve basis,’’ the report stated.

And then the coup de grace: “Next, detectives inspected the licenses of the club and found there to be no Common Victualler License, no City of Boston Entertainment License, no Massport Fire Assembly Permit, and no State Inspection Certificate.’’

At Air France, at Lufthansa, at British Airways, this is what detectives found: chardonnay, cheese puffs, and flat-panel TVs, and a lack of displayed licenses that allowed it. They threw the book at every one of them.

It may or may not be too obvious to point out that there is crime, serious crime, all over this great metropolis, so much of it going down on neighborhood streets where honest, hard-working people are afraid to walk after dark.

Like almost everything else in this city, it comes down to liquor licenses, which is why Massport interim chief executive David Mackey fired off a letter to the Boston Licensing Board this month pointing out that the board had determined in 2003 that airline clubs didn’t need them since they were “private’’ and offered “complimentary beverages.’’

Now Nicole Murati Ferrer, the respected chairwoman of the three-member Licensing Board, said her panel has determined “these clubs need licenses to serve alcohol.’’

But can the clubs serve while this sorts itself out? “No,’’ Ferrer said.

Off to Logan, to Danny Levy, head of communications at Massport. Are the clubs serving drinks these days? “Yes,’’ Levy said.

Oh, boy. Why do I picture a major bust at Logan tonight: Up against the wall, dirt-bag; I can see the Amstel Light.

There’s a larger point in all this. Boston constantly makes stutter-steps toward world-class status, demonstrated most recently with Japan Airlines planning nonstop service to Tokyo. We have a new neighborhood sprouting in the Seaport, miracles unfolding in our bioscience labs. Murders are down, and hope is staging an ever-so-subtle comeback.

But there we go again, counting TVs, trying to block travelers dropping $5K and up on a premium ticket from having a Scotch before their flight, creating what Mackey said is a “major threat’’ to new service at Logan. That’s the other Boston, the parochial Boston, the one that gets in the way.

The police detectives, all well regarded, are just fulfilling their charge, if zealously so. The Legislature could resolve this absurdity by passing a longstanding bill that would give the airport its own restricted liquor licenses.

I called Representative Ted Speliotis, straight-shooting chairman of the panel that’s been holding this proposal up. He explained the complications that engulf licensing issues, but said, “I’m optimistic it will get done.’’

Please, Mr. Chairman. This is one of those small issues that speaks far too loudly about the state of affairs in Boston today.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at mcgrory@globe.com.
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