Fenway Park bills itself as a fan-friendly venue, and next season promises to be a little friendlier for customers who enjoy a beer or a little hard alcohol with their peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
The Boston Licensing Board on Thursday approved requests from the Red Sox to expand sales of liquor to three more stations inside the 101-year-old ballpark and to allow sales of all alcohol until the end of the seventh inning. Through last season, the cutoff had been 2½ hours from the first pitch or the end of the seventh inning, whichever came first.
With many games lasting more than three hours, a leisurely pace that suits the Red Sox more than most Major League teams, the elimination of a time limit could result in an increase in alcohol sales.
A wide range of mixed drinks will be sold at eight stations in the ballpark now, said Jonathan Gilula, the Red Sox executive vice president of business affairs. The new stations will be adjacent to Yawkey Way, on the 47 Deck along the third-base line, and in the large concourse behind the bleachers.
"This is about ease of access, efficiency of service, and accommodating an interest that our fans have expressed," Gilula said.
The plan has the endorsement of Mayor Thomas M. Menino's office, which had raised concerns before the 2011 season when the team initially broached selling mixed drinks throughout the 37,000-seat ballpark. Those concerns were subsequently addressed to the satisfaction of city officials, and mixed drinks were sold that season outside the premium, upper-deck areas where they had previously been allowed.
"Right now, there are many people lined up at the kiosks, and the areas around the concourses get very crowded," said Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Menino. "Allowing for other areas to be set up will allow better flow of pedestrian traffic."
The board also approved the sale of beer in light aluminum and plastic wide-mouth bottles, in addition to the plastic cups that have been a staple for years. The reason is to curb the long lines that often form at concession stands, where each beer is poured into a cup, Red Sox executives said.
Next season, customers can opt for a bottle instead of a draft beer and walk away with an opened container.
Licensing Board chairwoman Nicole Murati Ferrer said the panel did not consider bottles to be a safety issue.
"With this particular ballpark and the fans that we've had, there's no history of projectiles being used" outside long past, isolated incidents, Murati Ferrer said.
Red Sox officials said that the change to bottles is following an industry trend and that wide-mouth openings will lessen their danger as a potential missile.
"When thrown and not covered, they empty at pretty much the same rate as a plastic cup, and it's about the same weight, so we don't have much fear," said Larry Cancro, the team's senior vice president for Fenway affairs. "We find that when people buy their beer, they really don't want to throw it."
The team also received approval to sell mixed drinks and alcohol on Yawkey Way when the ballpark is hosting other events, such as soccer games or concerts. The club, which closes the street to traffic before games, previously had sought permission to sell alcohol there on a case-by-case basis for other events, Cancro said.
Murati Ferrer said the plan will be sent to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which will review it before sending it back to the Licensing Board for final approval. Chandra Allard, a spokeswoman for the state board, said the process is expected to be completed before Opening Day.
Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.