In this file photo from last summer, An Amtrak Downeaster employee helps Ian Perrault off of the train and into the station after he arrived from Boston in Portland. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Passengers on the Amtrak Downeaster rail service that runs between Brunswick and Boston soon will have to abstain from buying alcoholic drinks in the train’s cafe car during the segment of the trip through New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission has forbidden the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which oversees the train service and its vendors, from serving beer, wine and mixed drinks while the train passes through 35 miles of the Granite State. The crackdown goes into effect March 20, and is based on a New Hampshire law that bans serving alcohol that has not been purchased in the state.

The company that provides the train’s food and beverage service, Mansfield, Massachusetts-based NexDine Hospitality, buys its alcoholic drinks for the 145-mile run in Maine.

Liquor Commission officials said on Monday that they only recently discovered the train was violating the state’s liquor laws. The rail authority’s executive director, Patricia Quinn, was told the commission did a routine audit this year to determine who was and wasn’t following the purchasing rule – and that audit turned up the Downeaster, which has been operating since 2001.

Quinn said that she’s asked about a review, waiver or appeal of the ruling, but was told there is none.

“It’s unfortunate,” she said. “It will make for a little inconvenience.”


Christina Roy is a student at Emmanuel College in Boston. She rides the Downeaster from time to time, traveling from her Boston apartment to the Brunswick train station. Roy, who was returning to Maine Monday night for a school break, was met by her family, who live in Manchester, Maine.

Roy said she was unaware of the New Hampshire crackdown on drinking. After having the rule explained to her, Roy, who rarely orders drinks on the train, responded.

“It seems a little excessive to me,” she said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but if it’s what New Hampshire wants what can we do?”

Quinn said passengers who buy drinks before the train enters New Hampshire will be able to continue imbibing. But they’ll have to hold off ordering refills until the train crosses into Massachusetts or Maine. The Downeaster makes 10 stops between Brunswick and Boston, and three are in New Hampshire: Dover, Durham and Exeter. If the train is running on time, the Downeaster spends less than 40 minutes along the 35-mile stretch of the state.

The train makes five daily round trips, as well as frequent late-night service – for instance, when the Boston Red Sox play or when there’s major concert in the city.

The Downeaster has carried nearly 9 million passengers since its inception and last year boarded 467,000 passengers, an increase of 35% from the 2021 total.


The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority doesn’t actually hold the liquor license for the Downeaster, Quinn said, the license is issued to NexDine. Amtrak usually provides food and drink services on its trains, but never has on the Downeaster, the only Amtrak line not connected to the nationwide network of rail service.

In Boston, the Downeaster operates out of North Station, while all other Amtrak trains use South Station. There is no rail link between the two terminals, about a mile apart.

Quinn said her agency “will continue to look into and monitor” the situation with New Hampshire’s liquor laws, although she sees it as a dispute between the Liquor Commission and NexDine. The food service company was contacted but declined to respond to questions about the matter.

Quinn said the rail authority has had “a really great relationship” with NexDine, which took over the food contract for the train in 2021.

“This has gone along fairly seamlessly,” until the New Hampshire Liquor Commission looked into the matter, she said.

A spokesman for the liquor commission said that the agency has been attempting to work with NexDine on a temporary solution while it examines the issue further.

In the interim, the commission informed NexDine and Amtrak Downeaster that they can continue to serve alcohol on the train when it is in New Hampshire.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this story

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