AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - The LePage Administration’s proposal to discontinue the sale of alcohol in small nip sized bottles has been rejected.
By a 4 to 1 vote, the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations shot down the idea after a hearing in Augusta today. The governor proposed taking the bottles off store shelves after getting into a disagreement with the legislature over adding a 5 cent deposit to the nips.
Steve Roop did not mince words when he told the commission how he feels about the governor and his plan to do away with nips.
“I voted for him twice. I don’t think I’d vote for him again. He’s childlike. I don’t mind saying that in front of the cameras”, he said.
Roop says the small bottles filled with liquor represent $700,000 in gross annual sales at his liquor stores. They also help support 124 full time and 30 part times jobs at the Lewiston based Sazerac, the number one seller of nips in Maine.
“We are the most important part of this, yet no one seems to have considered that fact”, said Andy Muschinski, Plant Manager at Sazerac.
Increasingly the small liquor bottles are being found littered along roadsides across the state. The head of the state’s alcoholic beverage operations says it’s clear people are drinking them behind the wheel and tossing them out the window.
“By selling spirits in 50 mil containers, we’re making it too easy for consumers to violate the law”, said Greg Mineo, Director of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.
Mineo urged the commission to pull nips from store shelves, saying there is strong evidence soaring sales of them are contributing to increasing rates of drinking and driving.
But Republican State Senator Tom Saviello said its clear this all about a threat the governor made in response to legislators passing a bill to impose a 5 cent deposit on the bottles.
“Senator Saviello, Mr. LePage said, would call my bluff. I call no one’s bluff. And I will de-list the 50 milliliter bottles if the bill passes”, Saviello testified.
With the proposal now dead, the 5 cent deposit on nips will go into effect in January of 2019. The legislature passed that bill and overrode Governor LePage’s veto of it.