why did mlb stadiums used to stop selling beer in the seventh inning?
April 27, 2023 7:14 AM   Subscribe

new mlb rules for the 2023 season have resulted in shorter game times. some baseball stadiums are responding to this change by extending beer sales (which traditionally ended in the seventh inning) into the eighth inning. i always thought ending beer sales in the seventh inning had something to do with allowing fans some time to sober up before the end of the game, but the recent changes contradict that. so, where did the old seventh inning "rule" come from? or more specifically, what was the reasoning behind the old rule?
posted by mumblelard to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think sobering up before the end of the game is part of it, but also just serving people beer for 4-5 hours straight means a certain subset of fans tends to get drunk to the point of unruliness. (Totally interesting question though - if anyone knows when this rule started I would love to know!)
posted by mskyle at 7:23 AM on April 27, 2023

It did have to do with allowing fans more time before potentially driving, and the changes do contradict that, which is why they’re somewhat controversial.

Since playing time after the 7th can vary greatly, and most parks are surrounded by bars anyway, this was never really a robust approach to preventing drunk driving. But sobriety aside, they pretty much want everyone to leave as quickly as possible once the game ends, which is not compatible with having a lot of freshly served beers circulating.
posted by staggernation at 7:34 AM on April 27, 2023 [8 favorites]

The rule was for all concessions, though, wasn't it? Hot dogs and popcorn and Pepsi as well as beer.

With that in mind, I suspect it has something to do with what happens after the game, similar to how restaurants close their kitchens before they close their dining rooms. You can stay in the dining room and finish your meal after the kitchen has closed, but the kitchen staff is going to start their closing procedures while they do so. Likewise, the concessionaires can start their closing procedures in the eighth inning. And since, traditionally, a lot of concessionaires were cash-only, there were a lot of $1 bills to count. By starting early, they could be finished by the end of the game, and maybe even leave early, beating the post-game traffic. This was probably even more important in the pre-Camden Yards era, when MLB ballparks sat 60k and were surrounded by square miles of parking.

It's not just the concessionaires who benefit, either. Using the same restaurant metaphor from above, the front-of-house has their own closing procedures, but they have to wait until the end of the game to start. They'd prefer to start at the end of the game, not whenever the guy who bought a round for his friends with two outs in the top of the ninth finishes his drink. Not only is that guy not going to be sitting around still drinking after the bottom of the ninth, he might actually leave even earlier and buy that round for his friends at the bar next door instead. It gets everyone out of the stadium sooner.

Couple that with the fact that the seventh inning is already a traditional break in baseball, and it makes a convenient stopping point.

But now, there aren't the same constraints. Concession stands take cards, and some places are even moving to no-cash. You don't have to spend time counting your drawer; the POS software does that for you in a microsecond. A focus on eliminating unnecessary packaging means there's less trash to pickup after the game. Modern cleaning technology can wash down a bathroom without anyone needing to scrub a toilet. Stadiums have gotten smaller ("more intimate"), so there are fewer people buying concessions, and fewer people leaving trash behind. And, of course, nobody goes to games at half the stadiums in MLB. Eleven teams, more than 1/3 of the league, are averaging less than 20k fans this season. Only one team averaged under 20k in 1993. Fewer people are buying fewer items, packaged lightly, with less cash. The calculations for the concessionaires and ballpark workers are different now. They've probably wanted this change for a while, and the pitch clock just gave them a convenient justification.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:02 AM on April 27, 2023 [2 favorites]

The seventh inning policy became popular in the 1980s, with preventing drunk driving being the usual rationale. Which makes sense as stadiums are liable under Dram Shop laws and thus can be sued by the victim of a drunk driving incident.

That hasn’t changed, so I would guess that selling alcohol later in the game is a way of keeping the concession money balanced against more legal risk. A few successful lawsuits would likely change the balance back towards the old policy.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:04 AM on April 27, 2023 [3 favorites]

This article is from 2003 but it talks about fan violence and beer sales.
posted by soelo at 8:09 AM on April 27, 2023

Back around 1981, Dodger Stadium used to have brawls in the outfield pavilions that lasted entire innings, so booze was straight up banned there altogether from then until the McCourts brought it back in ~2007.

If the crowd was rowdy enough, they banned booze sales there early in the rest of the stadium. For the first Dodger/Yankee game in the 2006 series, booze was stopped in the Top Deck area in the middle of the third inning.

My grandfather worked as an usher for the then California Angeles in the mid 70s. After every game they rounded up all the passed out drunks and brought them to the main exit gate. ~30ish feet outside the gate would be a line of Orange County Sheriffs. The recently woken up drunks would get pushed out the gate, and if they got past the line of cops, nothing happened. If they fell down before they got to the line, they were taken to the drunk tank.

In other US sports news, worth mentioning that Major League Soccer tends to stop booze in the 75th minute. Although, if you have fancy club seats for LAFC at least, that just means the beer/wine starts to cost money. If it's a weekend match, they'll often allow sales of booze in the club bars until 45 mins to an hour after the match ends.
posted by Back At It Again At Krispy Kreme at 8:35 AM on April 27, 2023 [8 favorites]

> so booze was straight up banned there

I should clarify, booze was banned in the outfield pavilions in the early 80s.
posted by Back At It Again At Krispy Kreme at 8:43 AM on April 27, 2023 [1 favorite]

but also just serving people beer for 4-5 hours straight means a certain subset of fans tends to get drunk to the point of unruliness.

To wit, the 1974 Cleveland Indians' Ten Cent Beer Night.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:31 AM on April 27, 2023 [2 favorites]

"Last Call" also creates a little spike in demand. You are sitting there watching the game, and the PA announcer puts the idea of one more beer into your thoughts.
posted by COD at 11:49 AM on April 27, 2023 [1 favorite]

I was at the hour 19-inning game at the Skydome on Canada Day a few years back. They stopped selling EVERYTHING in the 7th. It was very very hot. You could not even buy water.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:55 PM on April 27, 2023

« Older Substituting for tomato sauce in cassoulet   |   Delta/Air France Headphones in Premium Select and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.