Small liquor bottles, known as “nips,” will stay on Maine store shelves, despite a proposal from Governor Paul LePage to ban their sale in the state.
Commissioners for the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations (BABLO) considered the Governor’s plan Tuesday, and voted 4-1 against it.
LePage asked BABLO to de-list nips because he said they were to blame for a rise in drunk driving arrests.
“Motorists are consuming the alcohol in 50 milliliter bottles and throwing them out their car window,” said Aaron Chadbourne, policy adviser to LePage.
“Governor LePage believes 50 milliliter products make it much easier for drinking while driving, and we should not turn a blind eye and make it easier to do so,” Chadbourne testified at the BABLO hearing.
The hearing did not include any testimony from law enforcement.
BABLO’s Director told commissioners he supported the ban, due to concerns about drunk driving.
It was tough to swallow for the Sazerac Company, the Louisiana-based producer of Fireball whiskey. Sazerac operates a bottling facility in Lewiston, where more than 100 people work.
The plant manager told commissioners that this ban could jeopardize jobs and halt a planned $1 million expansion.
Sazerac’s CEO Mark Brown said there is no evidence that nips are the cause of more drunk driving arrests – and adds that the ban wouldn’t solve the state’s problem.
“Prohibition did not work in 1919, and the kind of discriminatory, non-evidence-based prohibition being proposed today will not work either,” said Brown.
This debate over nips started with a law addressing litter. Legislators supported a bill to add a five cent deposit on the 50 milliliter bottles to help encourage recycling.
LePage said he opposed the bill, calling it an un-due burden on businesses. He said if lawmakers voted to override his veto, he would instruct BABLO to de-list nips.