AUGUSTA — The state’s top liquor inspector told lawmakers Wednesday that legislation to ensure a pint of beer contains 16 ounces would be impossible to enforce. 

Time-crunched and scrambling to crack down on more serious crimes, Gregory Mineo, director of the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, told legislators that inspectors would be overburdened if tasked with measuring the fluid ounces in a pint glass.

“We don’t (even) have the people to get out there on a regular basis to enforce egregious problems like underage drinking,” Mineo said. “They can’t do this.”

The comments came before a work session of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee during a reading of a “truth-in-advertising” bill that would require establishments offering a “pint” to pour 16 ounces of beer — and not a drop less. 

Proposed by Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford, LD 122, “An Act to Standardize Pints of Beer Sold in Maine,” aims to address complaints that establishments are short-pouring patrons or serving beer in deceptively sized glasses. 

Under the bill, if an establishment advertises in print it is selling a pint, the beer must be 16 ounces. Foam that forms during the pour would not be part of the pint measure; it must all be liquid. 

Mineo said his bureau is not sufficiently staffed to handle the new rules, which would divert resources from higher priority issues.

“As the bill reads right now, we’re not in a position to do anything,” he said. 

During a public hearing last month, the bill ran into industry opposition because it would cost the burgeoning craft-brewing sector money better used on investment. 

Patrick said the very growth of the sector prompted regulation, with patrons “being beat out of millions of dollars.” 

“That’s a big deal to the taxpayers of the state of Maine,” Patrick said. 

The committee endorsed the bill during its first reading, adding enforcement provisions. To comply, Patrick said, establishments could buy 18-ounce glasses, common throughout Europe, that demarcate a 16-ounce fill line. He envisioned inspectors checking the glasses during their daily routine.

Rep. Thomas Longstaff, D-Waterville, likened enforcement to policing speeding; liquor inspectors wouldn’t have to bust everyone but focus on major violations to send a message. 

“Wouldn’t it be better to make consumer fraud illegal, even if it’s difficult to enforce?” he asked.

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