The Boston Police Department says it's determined to end problems by daytime drinkers congregating outside Mattapan Square liquor stores downing the nips and single cans of beer they've just bought, and are now about a month into a crackdown that they say so far is working.
District B-3 Sgt. Det. John Fitzgerald said Tuesday that last month, he and B-3 commanders met with the owners of the square's liquor stores to lay down the law and seek ways to put a stop to the long-running problem. The next day, he said, "No Loitering" signs went at local packies, making it easier for police to make people move along even if they're not caught in the act of drinking in public. And workers now try to do a better job of sweeping up all the empty nips that used to line nearby sidewalks.
Fitzgerald was testifying at a hearing before the Boston Licensing Board involving a citation issued to Happy Liquors II, 1633 Blue Hill Ave., because of a man caught drinking from an open bottle of whiskey at 9:30 a.m. on March 16. He said he was checking out the store in response to a number of "quality of life" complaints from residents.
Fitzgerald acknowledged the store was in particularly rough location because it's in a row with a smoke shop and a pizza place - and the sort of men who would drink nips would go down to the Dunkin' Donuts, panhandle, then return for more nips.
But he said the store had removed a trash bin out front that drinkers had been using as an impromptu table and gathering spot. And he said problems with day drinkers has decreased over the past month. Along with working with the store owners, B-3 has instituted rotating "zero tolerance" days outside specific stores, in which anybody trying to undo a container of liquor on the sidewalk outside
The store's attorney, Ethan Schaff, acknowledged the store had gone through a rough patch of about six months where nothing employees seemed to do would get people to stop congregating outside, drinking. He agreed with Fitzgerald that things have improved.
But Schaff recoiled when board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini - who said she was troubled by the report of somebody standing on the sidewalk drinking at 9:30 a.m. - asked whether the long-term solution might be to ban the sale of nips and single cans of beer altogether. In recent years, the city has barred the sale of the products on new package-store licenses issued in the city.
Schaff said the stores survive in part because of the sales of the products, and that the board should give the new police and store policies in Mattapan Square a chance to prove themselves before taking such a drastic step as trying to bar their sale.