One of the common local myths circulating around any town in Massachusetts comes to life every time someone says “No town in Massachusetts has more liquor stores than (insert his town here).” I have heard the term ascribed to Provincetown, Worcester, Amherst, Winthrop, Scituate, Clinton, Bridgewater, Marshfield and a dozen other towns. The easier to swallow version of this myth is the same quote, but on a per-person basis.
Opinions vary wildly, and this is probably one of those articles where I’ll get told to eff off in the comments section. I’m good with that. I will say that there are different lists with different criteria.
Boston generally wins Drunkest City In America. That title is shouldered by a heavily Irish population base, an unmatched pile of college kids, a nice flow of business travel, long suffering Red Sox fans, a solid nightlife industry and did I mention the Irish?
Roadsnacks, in an influential 2015 study using much of the same criteria as me (but using other factors like Package Stores, Divorce Rates and Twitter references), came up with a Top Ten of:
WCVB, using a self-reporting technique of “Has More Than Five Drinks Per Session” and going by counties, had:
They had Hampshire standing alone, Nantucket and Suffolk taking Place and Show, a glut with the same ranking (on that list, it runs from Barnstable to Norfolk Counties with each holding the same score) and the non-UMass western regions being a bit drier.
There are dry towns in the state where no Licka gets sold. Those towns remind me of the Civil War story of the Irish soldier slipping off the march into a dry-town inn and asking the innkeeper for “a glass of water, with a wee bit of the Creature added, unbeknownst to you or myself.”
I was going to try to find out Liquor Stores Per Town, but that seemed like too much work. There exists no easily-Googled database. I’d have to Google up which towns have how many liquor stores, then divide or something by how many people live in each town. A good method, granted, but very work-intensive for a sunny Saturday morning in May. There would also be a large Margin Of Error.
What I shall instead do is use this map of 2011 liquor licenses per town from the Boston Business Journal. Old numbers, obsolete, but providing insight. I can then cross-reference my numbers with the population figures of the town in question, and… Voila! We have a new stat, one which I will name once I think of something catchy.
(Editor’s Note: Or he can save 12 hours of math by just using this chart)
This map is just for places you can drink IN. Take-out drinking from packie stores isn’t accounted for on this list.
I may as well make a few guesses here before I start looking at the numbers, thus becoming like more enlightened than you. Once I have had a look, I’m disqualified from guessing. You’ll catch up to my enlightenment once you read the article, but by that time, I’ll be looking up some other new ish, and the cycle will begin anew.
I’m thinking that “the Irish Riviera” will miss out on her rightful title, mostly because “Cape Cod” is a touristy place and will have her numbers padded by people on vacation. I have no doubt that New Beige and Fall-down River carry the “South Coast” on their backs, but if places like Acushnet and Mattapoisett represent hard, the region may be able to take down a contender.
Anyhow, here are the towns from our region and their ranking on the list. The criteria is residets-per-liquor license. If I had package store numbers, these rankings might be radically different.
Rank…. Town…. Residents… Licenses… Residents per License
1 PROVINCETOWN 3,390 62 55
Provincetown takes the title. At least one publication that I saw summed it up as well as I can… “Tourist haven in the summer… desolate, isolated winters.”
“55 residents per license” means that, if every single man, woman, child and baby in Provincetown went out for a drink to a local bar, each bar would only have 55 people in it… less, once you factor out bar employees who live in Provincetown,
By contrast…. if a similar event happened in Duxbury, there would be 1444 people in each bar. If it happened in Boxford (ranked #318 and last in the state), there would be 8600 people in each bar.
3 WELLFLEET 2,748 26 106
5 OAK BLUFFS 3,731 29 129
6 EDGARTOWN 3,920 30 131
9 NANTUCKET 10,531 73 144
10 AQUINNAH 354 2 177
14 TRURO 2,134 10 213
16 ORLEANS 6,315 27 234
21 CHATHAM 6,726 26 259
The Cape represents hard, although runner-up towns like Great Barrington could complain about tourists and summer people swelling the numbers. If you assume that summer people double the population of Chatham, and that there are also a disproportionate amount of hotels filling up with families, you might have to triple or even quadruple the licenses-per-town rankings. All of a sudden, these supposedly hard-drinking Cape towns start tumbling to 150th in the state.
Provincetown is immune to that. Tripling their RPL only moves them to 3rd in the state.
Monroe- ranked second in the state, just above Wellfleet- has 1 license in a town with 96 residents. By contrast, the Mayberry hometown (may have been County, or both town and county) of Andy Griffith fame had 5600 residents… in 1968.
27 DENNIS 15,473 53 292
34 TISBURY 3,805 11 346
40 BARNSTABLE 46,738 112 417
42 YARMOUTH 24,010 56 429
43 FALMOUTH 33,247 76 437
44 SEEKONK 13,593 31 438
46 HARWICH 12,387 28 442
The pattern continues through the Top 50.
Let’s pause right here to tip our glasses to the western part of the state. While I’m only showing EMass towns, rest assured that about 90% of the towns that I’m leaving out are in the Berkshires.
“Mountain man/mountain man/drinks like a fish/and he hits like a ram.”
Both of the islands assert themselves mightily. Island people are sort of kin to mountain people. Both are a bit strange. It’s a different sort of strangeness, but it shares a common intensity. They’re both about equally lost in a city.
54 FOXBOROUGH 16,298 34 479
58 EASTHAM 5,445 11 495
59 BREWSTER 10,023 20 501
60 HULL 11,067 22 503
64 WEST BRIDGEWATER 6,679 13 514
67 PLYMOUTH 55,188 103 536
68 MATTAPOISETT 6,447 12 537
71 COHASSET 7,182 13 552
74 FAIRHAVEN 16,124 29 556
75 WAREHAM 21,154 38 557
Rankings 50-75 have a few trends jumping out at me.
1) The South Coast is beginning to assert herself. Props to Seekonk for sliding into the top 50. Mattapoisett, Fairhaven and Wareham also step up to the bar by the time that #75 is called.
2) The South Shore and especially the Irish Riviera took awhile to show themselves. Scituate is nowhere to be seen.
3) I wonder if (and how much) Foxboro’s numbers are pushed up by the Patriots being in town. I don’t get out to Foxy Bro as much as I used to, and am not sure what sort of effect 8 home games (and X playoff games any year) has on the town’s drinking establishments. They say that businesses on Cape Cod are made/broken by 8-12 weekends a year. I wonder how much 8-12 weekend days a year is worth in Hooch Sold?
78 BOURNE 19,023 33 576
80 BOSTON 599,351 1,033 580
82 KINGSTON 12,339 21 588
87 NEW BEDFORD 91,849 150 612
Cape Cod is starting to fade out… not because we don’t drink hard enough, but because we’ve exhausted most of our towns earlier in the rankings.
Bourne does drink harder than Boston, something I’m a bit shocked to see. If Boston had better beaches, they might be able fight their way up the list a bit.
Note that many of Boston’s Irish fled Boston in the 1970s, driving up the numbers in the otherwise sleepy Irish Riviera.
New Beddy closes out our presence in the top 100. 30% of the top 100 are towns in our coverage area.
108 MASHPEE 14,261 21 679
109 RAYNHAM 13,641 20 682
111 OTIS 1,394 2 697
112 HINGHAM 22,394 32 700
119 AVON 4,303 6 717
Hey! That town of Otis is in Western Mass, and it’s not the rotary in Bourne.
My people in Raynham tell me there is great happiness that they conquered all but one Bridgewater.
In Massachusetts, the Avon lady is a bartender.
We forgot SWANSEA, they’re 128th
131 MARION 5,217 7 745
132 SANDWICH 20,255 27 750
140 ABINGTON 16,365 21 779
141 BRAINTREE 34,422 44 782
145 QUINCY 91,622 116 790
158 FALL RIVER 90,905 111 819
160 MANSFIELD 22,993 28 821
162 WALPOLE 23,086 28 825
172 WRENTHAM 11,116 13 855
177 ACUSHNET 10,443 12 870
179 NORTON 19,222 22 874
183 ROCKLAND 17,780 20 889
184 DARTMOUTH 31,241 35 893
186 STOUGHTON 26,951 30 898
190 MARSHFIELD 24,576 27 910
192 EAST BRIDGEWATER 13,879 15 925
193 PEMBROKE 18,595 20 930
195 NORWELL 10,271 11 934
198 SCITUATE 17,881 19 941
199 WESTPORT 15,136 16 946
Fall River is pretty much right in the middle of the rankings. New Bedford and Fall River, which I thought would carry the South Coast, ranked a modest 87 and 158 respectively. Seekonk (44), Mattapoisett (60 something) and the Wareham/Fairhaven team (74 and 75) all represented harder.
At least 10% of the liquor licenses in Wareham are held by places that only serve breakfast. (Your Hometown Here) may have more or less, I just wanted to float that stat out there.
Sandwich finishes off the Cape.
Fall River trails Quincy, which is the same size but more Irish-heavy. The Squantum neighborhood of Quincy is about as Irish as it gets.
If a bar gets their license revoked in Scituate, this thought-she’d-be-ranked-higher Irish Riviera superheavyweight would fall out of the Top 200. She’d rank below hard-living Oakham (pop. 953, 2 licenses) in the state
205 REHOBOTH 11,484 12 957
206 SOMERSET 18,268 19 961
209 TAUNTON 55,783 57 979
219 NORTH ATTLEBORO 27,907 27 1,034
223 MIDDLEBORO 21,245 20 1,062
224 WEYMOUTH 53,272 50 1,065
225 HANOVER 13,966 13 1,074
230 HALIFAX 7,700 7 1,100
233 HANSON 9,956 9 1,106
234 BRIDGEWATER 25,514 23 1,109
243 EASTON 22,969 20 1,148
247 ATTLEBORO 43,113 37 1,165
248 LAKEVILLE 10,587 9 1,176
249 HOLBROOK 10,663 9 1,185
250 WHITMAN 14,385 12 1,199
You’d think a town known as “Hangover” would be higher than 225, but No.
If Taunton gets a casino, they could jump up a lot of spots. Considering Boston is 80, a jump into the Top 10 may be a lot to ask for.
Bridgewater, which has the University, is the lowest-ranked Bridgewater. East and West pub much harder.
252 FRANKLIN 31,381 25 1,255
253 BROCKTON 93,092 74 1,258
259 LYNN 87,122 67 1,300
270 DUXBURY 14,444 10 1,444
272 FREETOWN 8,935 6 1,489
300 BERKLEY 6,433 3 2,144
304 CARVER 11,547 5 2,309
311 DIGHTON 6,748 2 3,374
315 ROCHESTER 5,218 1 5,218
The infamous “City of Sin” ranks an effete 259.
If the Gurnet Inn was still open, sleepy Duxbury would be ahead of Brockton and Lynn.
Rochester and Dighton hold down the South Coast, and Lakeville is the more “Let’s go out” of the Freetown-Lakeville conglomerate.
Duxbury and Sandwich ranked similarly, something our staff predicted. Both towns are sort of the Rich People Conscience of either Cape Cod or the South Shore (I’m told by our Fairhaven editor that Dartmouth fills a similar role on the South Coast). Granted, Sandwich is about twice as pubby as Duxbury, but the Cape is sort of off the scale due to summer tourism.
Shame on you, Rochester!
Here’s a quick region-by-region tally:
INTERIOR BRISTOL COUNTY
INTERIOR PLYMOUTH COUNTY
THE IRISH RIVIERA