AUGUSTA – A legislative committee voted Wednesday to support a bill that would allow brew pubs, such as Gritty McDuff’s in Auburn, to sell half-gallon, take-home containers of beer.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Smith, D-Monmouth, would allow bartenders to fill containers known as growlers from the taps for off-premises drinking.

The Legal and Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously approved the bill, which means it will go to the full Legislature for a vote.

Under current Maine law, breweries can obtain licenses to sell their products for off-premises consumption and restaurants can obtain licenses to sell products for on-site consumption. But brew pubs, or restaurants that brew their own beer, have to obtain both permits and provide a storefront separate from their restaurant to sell bottles of their beer.

It’s not feasible for places like the Liberal Cup of Hallowell to sell from their breweries, Rep. Smith said. “It’s just too small of an area and (the owner) doesn’t have the staffing to do it. With this bill, given his existing premises and existing staffing, he can add a whole new product line. That’s the key.”

Smith said her goal was to enable Maine brewers to promote their products to both locals and tourists.

“It’s a great marketing tool; the growlers themselves are collector’s items,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a huge success for Maine’s brewers.”

The growlers, which are reusable and usually made of glass, would have to be sealed by the bartender and could not be sold after 10 p.m., but there would be no limit on the number that could be purchased, according to a committee amendment modeled after New Hampshire law.

Only pubs that brew on the premises would be eligible to sell growlers.

The 10 p.m. amendment sought to dissuade concerns expressed at the public hearing by the Maine Department of Public Safety, which opposed the bill.

Maine State Police Lt. David Bowler told lawmakers that anything they did to “tighten up” the bill would be viewed favorably by the department.

“Our concern is that you can lug these out at 11 or 12 o’clock,” he said. “Yes, they could go buy some beer at a convenience store, but if they are going to do that, then make them work to do it.”

Many other states have laws similar to the Maine bill, including New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Kansas and Montana.

The committee plans to review the bill’s final language before sending it to the full Legislature for consideration.


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