Friday, June 20, 2008

A Hendricks by the Hudson

I see in the news that Boris Johnson has banned alcohol from the tube, probably prompting most people to respond, "You mean I was allowed to drink on the Underground?"

This brings to mind the beer at Grand Central Terminal.

New York has a different attitude about alcohol from the UK. Some rules seem more relaxed, others more rigid. It's complicated.
  • The UK is more relaxed, look at the 18 age limit on buying alcohol compared with 21 in New York.
  • New York is more relaxed, look at the closing times, usually 11.00pm in the UK compared with well past my bedtime (4am) here.
  • The UK is more relaxed, watch TV and you will see alcohol all over the place, on US TV people who drink are usually mad, bad or dangerous to know.
  • New York is more relaxed, the spirits liquor measures are almost twice the size (45ml to 25ml) and it's half the price.
  • The UK is more relaxed, you can buy all your alcohol in supermarket, in New York supermarkets only sell beer. If you want wine or spirits, you have to go to a liquor store (which isn't allowed to sell beer).
  • New York is more relaxed, people in the UK have been refused alcohol in supermarkets because they were accompanied by their teenage children, because they are accompanied by their 47-year-old mother, because they are foreigners, even for attempting to buy barbecue sauce without ID. In the UK you have to accept the judgment of the check-out girl as to whether you are a suitable customer.
As I say, it's complicated.

Anyway let me tell you about Grand Central Terminal. The best way to visualise Grand Central is as a large fork, with the main concourse that you see in the films as the head of the fork, and all the platforms laid out like the prongs. To make it more accurate, imagine your fork has 30 prongs and then another layer of 17 prongs underneath (Grand Central's platforms are all underground).

Now imagine you have a long chip French fry on the end of your fork. Actually, two large French fries, one on each layer of tines. These fries are tunnels that allow access to the platforms from the wrong end which is great for me as they exit just two blocks from my office.

Now, ask me what they sell in these French fry tunnels?

Beer and liquor. There are several concession stands selling a variety of beers as well as whiskey and vodka to commuters. You can buy a can of beer or a miniature bottle of liquor, unopened from a man behind a cart, in a tunnel, in a station.

Just knowing I can buy a couple of shots of gin on the journey home makes the working day seem a much more pleasant prospect.


  1. Beer and liquor in the same store? In New York? I think the world has just stopped spinning on its axis...

  2. It varies by state. In Florida, you can buy beer and wine but no spirits. In Massachusetts you buy all three at the Package Store. In New Hampshire the state sells all three in their own stores. In Kentucky there are dry counties where you can't get any alcohol whatsoever!

    Benefit from the guys who sell beer in brown paper bags for the ride home, it always makes it better...