Miniature bottle of Fireball cinnamon whiskey. The small bottle is called a nip.

AUGUSTA — When Gov. Paul LePage makes a threat, he doesn’t often back down.

So it didn’t surprise anyone that he asked the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations Tuesday to begin the process of banning the sale of miniature bottles of liquor known as “nips.”

LePage vowed to seek the ban if the Legislature approved a nickel deposit on the bottles over his opposition. It did.

The bureau plans a July 11 hearing to determine whether it should go along with the governor’s request to “de-list” the 50-milliliter bottles for sale in Maine, a move that may impact the jobs of some of the 130 workers at a plant in Lewiston that bottles the most popular brand sold in the state.

The commission is soliciting comments on the proposed ban so that it can present them to the five members of its board at next month’s meeting.

The Senate and House each voted to override LePage’s veto last week. Three Lewiston area senators — Democrat Nate Libby and Republicans Eric Brakey and Garrett Mason — were among the handful who voted to sustain the veto.

“The governor’s attempt to ban the sale of 50-millileter bottles of spirits is misguided in the extreme,” Libby said.

“There are more than 100 jobs in Lewiston tied to the sale of so-called nips, and I will oppose, to the greatest extent of my ability, any move by the government that could put my constituents out of work,” he said.

“No man or woman in Lewiston should lose their livelihood in service of Gov. LePage’s petty vendetta against the Legislature,” Libby said.

The prospect of a ban on nips raised alarms for Mark Brown, the chief executive officer of Sazerac Co., which operates the Lewiston bottler that sells the fast-growing Fireball brand.

In a letter to the Senate president last month, Brown said a ban would have “a drastic impact” on Sazerac’s sales.

He told lawmakers the market for nips is growing quickly and will soon make up 15 percent of the overall market for liquor sales in Maine and warned them that banning nips would cost the state millions.

The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 11 at the Augusta State Armory, 179 Western Ave. in Augusta. Commissioners plan to make a decision at the end of the hearing.

This story will be updated.


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