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A package store (or packy if you are from The Hub), is where you go to buy your liquor (lickah). You could say that a Package Store is a liquor store, and you would be right.

It is often said to be a feature of the Massachusetts dielect, however I have seen the words "Package Store" on a liquor store in Virginia recently, so it does not apear to be the case.

The term has fallen into disuse in recent years, and is mainly used when doing impressions of a hard core south boston accent, usually in the form of "Im goin on down to tha packy to get me some lickah paly".

To be very specific, a package store is a store that sells Alcohol in "packaged form"; meaning that it is not in an open container and is being sold with the intent that it is consumed somewhere else.

There be evil here
Behind these darkened windows

In times of old, going back to the 1970s and 1980s (and certainly before that), there was an odd thing about liquor in my old home state of Massachusetts. You see, we had these Blue Laws, which often took strange form when applied in the real world. You could not have a liquor store and put the word "liquor" on it. That was evil. No one was supposed to know, or maybe it was to protect the children, but liquor stores in Massachusetts were for the longest time strange and foreboding places. Usually the windows were covered with brown paper and you would only see a dim neon sign outside broadcasting "Package Store."

When I was but a wee lad, I noticed these places and they were usually close to the grocery store when my mother took me along from time to time to watch her purchase pork loin and Birds' Eye™ frozen vegetables. I would inquire as to what this "Package Store" sold and I remember my mother would explain that they were places where people went to get packages. I told her that the mailman always brought packages directly to our house and she explained that not everyone has a house.

Take into account that my mother
was somewhat young and in over her head
when I was born
I was conceived on her 19th birthday.

In those days, before the "great liquor liberation" of the 1990s in Massachusetts, you could not purchase alcoholic beverages of any kind unless you purchased them in a package store. Beer and wine became legally distributed in supermarkets and convenience stores slowly but surely during the liberation. However, it took the Great Liquor War with New Hampshire to make that happen.

They blamed it on the Catholics and the de facto papal rule of most of eastern and central Massachusetts. For years you could not purchase alcohol on Sundays, and for that matter there were some stringent laws against businesses operating on Sundays, but that is a different matter. Capitalism and the Massachusetts Blue Laws came into direct conflict and the first real shots were fired in the early 1990s.

What used to happen was that Sunday drinkers who did not have the foresight to stock up for the weekend would travel to New Hampshire in order to acquire their beverage of choice for home and office use. Package stores, known to the locals as "the packy," in towns along the border with New Hampshire found this most humiliating. Not only were their customers crossing the border, they were also finding their tasty beverages to be cheaper in the enchanted land to the north and stocked up for the week. So, they rallied and lobbied and threw bricks at people until changes were made in the law to allow package stores within a town that was a certain distance from the New Hampshire border to sell alcohol on Sundays.

Of course, this created more problems. Local merchants in one town were watching their customers drive north to another store in the same state to buy booze on Sundays. They wouldn't stand for this. It was unfair to business and downright insane.

The liberation had begun and change was underway. I moved during the war, but upon my return last summer I found beer and wine in convenience stores, gas stations and supermarkets. However, much to my amusement, I noticed one of the most wonderful things about package stores continued to be part of the Massachusetts cultural landscape. You still had to have your alcoholic product placed inside a bag. You see, that was where the name "package store" originated. When you left the store with your purchase, no one was supposed to see what it was, so your beer, wine or liquor would be placed inside a brown paper bag to conceal it from view. The funny thing about that bag deal was that if you purchased a case of beer (which no one seems to do in Florida but it was pretty much the way you bought beer in Massachusetts) it is in a box with beer company/brand logos on either side and everyone knows what you are up to. However, if you tried to carry a six-pack out the door without a bag, sirens would go off. I still get confused here in Florida when they ask me "Would you like a bag?" To say "no" just seems so foolishly dangerous, so I always say, "Yes, please."

I never forgot the first time
I asked if anyone was going to go for a "packy run"
in Florida and people moved away from me on the couch.
Maybe it was my cologne.

It is a crazy world, but in the end the evil known as alcohol beats all comers. No one can stop its flow from its delightful smooth bottle to your thirsty lips. Not even Eliot Ness.

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