After decades, LIRR booze carts end run at Penn Station

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After decades, LIRR booze carts end run at Penn Station
Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 9:11 AM
Newsday: After decades, LIRR booze carts end run at Penn Station 
By Alfonso A. Castillo - Updated: Monday, March 26, 2018, 8:42 PM: Mar 27, 2018 
After decades, LIRR booze carts end run at Penn Station 
The news was unwelcome by many LIRR riders, who saw the bar carts as a rare convenience in an increasingly inconvenient commute. 
By Alfonso A. Castillo 
Updated: Monday, March 26, 2018, 8:42 PM 
Long Island Rail Road customers now have one fewer way to drown their commuting sorrows, as LIRR station platform bar carts rolled out for the final time Monday. 
With little notice to the public, the railroad last year unilaterally opted to discontinue its bar cart service — a final remnant of the bar cars that were ubiquitous on LIRR trains until the early 1980s. Although bar cart attendants will remain on the job for a few more days this week finishing up some back office duties, last call for customers came on Monday’s evening rush hour. 
The news was unwelcome to many LIRR riders, who saw the bar carts as a rare convenience in an increasingly inconvenient commute. The LIRR last year posted its worst on-time performance numbers in 18 years, and the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last week all but confirmed the agency plans to propose another fare increase later this year. 
“What else is the MTA going to take away from us?’’ electrician Tom Smith, 38, of Lindenhurst, said Friday before boarding his Penn Station train. “It’s almost like they don’t want us to take the railroad anymore.” 
The agency’s decision came as it faced growing pressure, including from the MTA Board’s Suffolk representative, Mitchell Pally, to get out of the booze-selling business. In December 2016, the MTA suspended its bar cart operations at the LIRR’s sister railroad, Metro-North, amid allegations of missing funds. 
“This service was subject to various reviews that led us to conclude that it’s not our core competency and that we should stay focused on providing safe and reliable transportation,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said. “Other retailers meet this market.” 
MTA officials said, planning on discontinuing the service for months, the LIRR has allowed its bar cart attendants ranks to shrink by attrition. Whatever attendants are left will be reassigned to new jobs at the railroad. 
After selling wine, beer and cocktails from station platforms for 20 years, Dave Telehany, 43, said he’ll move over to cleaning train cars and their bathrooms this week. What he’ll miss the most, he said, is the bond he formed with customers. 
“I’ve been invited to First Communions, baptisms, weddings,” Telehany said. 
Anthony Simon, general chairman of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union, which represents bar cart attendants, called it a “sad day in the history of the LIRR” and criticized the railroad for doing away with a “limited and responsible service, which may be the only service left that the railroad can say makes money.” 
Donovan said bar cart sales, on average, generate about $600,000 a year for the LIRR, which collects about $1.3 billion in total revenue annually. 
“If every dollar truly counts, why not accept that revenue rather than allow it to be lost to the retail business’ upstairs?” Simon asked. “Our customers will still have their drinks onboard, but now with less convenience, less professionalism and less money to the MTA.” 
Pally said he sympathized with the union, and suggested the MTA find ways to cash in on the added business some of its Penn Station retail tenants are sure to get. Still, Pally said he has felt strongly for more than a decade that the LIRR had no business putting alcohol in the hands of its customers, especially considering most of them got behind the wheel of a car when they arrived at their home station. 
“To me, that’s an unneeded and unnecessary liability risk,” Pally said. “People are just going to have to change their habits a little to make sure that they can buy it, if they want to, from one of the retailers who are more than willing to sell it to them.” 
The decision comes as the MTA and LIRR have gradually moved away from promoting use among its customers. 
In 2012 the LIRR banned alcohol consumption on “overnight weekend trains,” and have since expanded the ban to include several holidays and days of alcohol-friendly events, such as the Belmont Stakes and the SantaCon bar crawl. In October, the MTA Board approved banning alcohol ads on all its properties, including LIRR trains and stations. 
With Maria Alvarez
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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 12:05 PM

It took them long enough.  I'm surprised that the handful of other suburban operators who sell the hard stuff on trains haven't discontinued those sales because of the liability issue, among other things.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 1:44 PM

It took them long enough.  I'm surprised that the handful of other suburban operators who sell the hard stuff on trains haven't discontinued those sales because of the liability issue, among other things.

So now those that think they need a drink will hit the package goods store on their way to the train - buy a pint or half pint - and down it on the ride home instead of the drink or two they would have bought at the bar cart.

The law of unintended consequences!

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Posted by 54light15 on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 4:19 PM

At the southeast corner of Grand Central there is or was a decent deli with a good beer selection. Last time I was in there after attending a beer festival under the Brooklyn Bridge, a good looking blonde gave me the eye. She was a sergeant in New York's finest. She didn't frisk me, damn it! 

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Posted by seppburgh2 on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 7:45 PM

After NJDOT took over communter operations on the former EL, the "bar cars" still continued for a little bit in the mid 70's.  The "bar car" was a smoking car where the "bar tender" (was there a formal railroad term for this craft such as porter?) would flip tow seats facing eachother about mid car, place a wooden blank or bar between the seats, open up some collers and there you where!  Since the drinking age was 18, and said person was 18 a freshmen at Rutgers Newark, nothing better to get a cold Bud and an EL pastic cup!  Now the trick was walking forward 4 cars to find a seat on the headend.  

Well, shortly after NJDOT took over, the State of NJ figured this was too much for a goverment agency to sell booze!  So one day was the last day and the state bought out the contracts for the "bar tenders", that is paid to feather bed until the contracts expired.  

I still have one of those EL cups and happy memories of The Route of the Phoebe Snow!

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Posted by D.Carleton on Thursday, March 29, 2018 9:22 AM


Editor Emeritus, This Week at Amtrak

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Posted by greyhounds on Saturday, April 07, 2018 3:04 AM

When I was working in Chicago and commuting on the C&NW/BN lines I could enjoy a drink to go in a disposable cup.  Bought it in the station on the way home.

So, technically, this was illegal.  The alcohol was supposed to be consumed on premise.  Once, there was a crack down---I guess they didn't have anything else to do, or, being Chicago, the right people weren't being paid enough.

So the crack down didn't last long and I could get a gin and tonic on the way home when I wanted one.

"By many measures, the U.S. freight rail system is the safest, most efficient and cost effective in the world." - Federal Railroad Administration, October, 2009. I'm just your average, everyday, uncivilized howling "anti-government" critic of mass government expenditures for "High Speed Rail" in the US. And I'm gosh darn proud of that.

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