AUGUSTA — A measure to require a 5-cent deposit on tiny liquor bottles known as nips is heading for a near certain veto from Gov. Paul LePage — and possibly a move by him to ban nips entirely, which could hurt a major bottler based in Lewiston.

With the Senate’s unanimous agreement Tuesday , the measure cleared its last legislative hurdle before it winds up on the governor’s desk.

But it’s not his veto that has made the anti-littering proposal so controversial.

It’s LePage’s threat last week if the bill passes to “instruct the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations to begin working immediately with the Liquor and Lottery Commission to delist all nips from sale in Maine” so that they’re pulled off the shelves entirely.

The move seems so entirely over the top to some that Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, expressed skepticism that the governor would actually do it.

But in his written statement laying out his thoughts on the issue, LePage said Saviello “should know better than that.


LePage said the “severe impact of this bill” would leave him with no choice except to take the drastic step of banning the nips, which a Lewiston bottler that employs 130 workers has called on lawmakers to avoid.

Though the governor initially expressed worry about the financial impact of adding millions of 50-milliliter bottles to the deposit program, he later said he also thinks the real issue with the increasingly popular nips is that they make it easier for people to drink and drive.

The governor said during a radio interview that drivers simply gulp down the liquor and toss the evidence out the window.

The prospect of a ban on nips raised alarms for Mark Brown, the chief executive officer of Sazerac Co., which operates the Lewiston bottler.

In a letter to the Senate president, Brown withdrew his company’s backing for the compromise measure he’d worked out with Saviello. He said a ban would have “a drastic impact” on Sazerac’s sales. It bottles the popular Fireball brand that many nip buyers prefer.

The Legislature passed a bill that would require a 5-cent deposit on tiny liquor bottles known as nips. But Gov. Paul LePage has said he will veto the bill. (Staff photo)

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