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NH Liquor Commission: Booze can still flow on Downeaster despite licensing issue

Dan Tuohy
The train’s operator initially said it would be forced to suspend alcohol sales as the train moved through New Hampshire because it sources its liquor from outside the state.

Passengers aboard the Amtrak Downeaster will be able to continue purchasing alcoholic drinks from the café car while passing through New Hampshire on an interim basis, while the train’s culinary vendor sorts through a licensing issue.

While reapplying for its license with the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, NexDine — the company that sells food and drink on the train operated by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority — disclosed that it doesn’t purchase its alcohol from New Hampshire. That puts it in violation of a law that requires all alcohol sold within the state be purchased from the state.

Initial media reports and statements from the rail authority said the train would be forced to suspend alcohol sales while the trains were traveling within New Hampshire’s borders beginning March 20. But the liquor commission said Tuesday that it would grant NexDine permission to continue selling alcohol while the parties look for a solution.

“We hope to continue to provide that same high level of service by exploring a creative solution, laying tracks for a unique partnership between New Hampshire and Maine” the commission wrote in a statement.

The Downeaster operates passenger service connecting Brunswick, Maine with Boston's North Station, including three stops in New Hampshire.

According to a café car menu on the Downeaster’s website, beer, wine, cocktails and even champagne are available for purchase.

NexDine didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.