When Oriole Park at Camden Yards opens in April, baseball fans will be able to buy mixed drinks and take them back to their seats -- a departure from the common practice at Memorial Stadium.
The stadium concessionaire, ARA Leisure Services Inc., plans to sell gin and tonics, rum and Cokes and other mixed drinks from four new "deli-bars" located at strategic points in the stadium and the former B&O warehouse next to it.
"We've tried hard to develop some spaces for the little guy," said Joe Costa, regional general manager for ARA.
Mixed drinks will also be available from bartenders in the members-only lounge and stocked refrigerators in the luxury skyboxes at Camden Yards, but ARA wanted to create attractive bars for the ordinary fan who cannot afford a skybox.
"We've tried to give him the same chance to participate in some of the finer spaces of the stadium as anyone else," said Mr. Costa during a hearing before the state Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City.
The board this week gave ARA a special "arena" liquor license for food and beverage service at the downtown ballpark.
It's "just an option," said Mr. Costa. "When you consider that there are four of 33 [alcoholic beverage] locations that will serve hard liquor, it's a very conservative number. It's not a very high ratio." The other locations will serve beer the same way it has been sold at Memorial Stadium.
Patrons on 33rd Street were able to purchase mixed drinks at the Hit & Run Club and take them to their seats, but not many did so because that restaurant was not close to most of the seats, according to Mr. Costa, whose firm has operated the food and beverage concessions at Memorial Stadium since 1984.
In testimony before the liquor board on Thursday, Mr. Costa and others stressed that ARA trains its employees in "alcohol awareness" procedures and that it voluntarily participates in several nationwide programs designed to discourage alcohol abuse and drunken driving.
The efforts include the Designated Driver Program, in which non-drinkers in a party are rewarded with free sodas, and Cab Alert, in which intoxicated patrons can get a free cab ride home.
As in past years, Mr. Costa said, ARA will not allow people to take alcoholic beverages into the ballpark. It will also stop serving alcoholic beverages after the seventh inning of single games and the fifth inning of the second game of double headers.
Other stadiums around the country have served mixed drinks with few problems, as have concert halls and arenas, Mr. Costa said. The New Orleans Superdome has about 40 different places where people can buy mixed drinks, he said.
Based in Philadelphia, ARA holds more than 100 liquor licenses throughout the United States at facilities such as arenas, hotels and convention centers, and sports facilities. At Oriole Park, it is working in a joint venture with Martin's Stadium Inc. and has a 15-year contract to provide food and beverage service.