In 2013, more than 100 workers at the then-Beam plant in Lewiston thought they were going to lose their jobs when Beam announced it would be moving its operations out of Lewiston. Fortunately, an American liquor company, Sazerac, came in and bought the plant, keeping good jobs in Lewiston and bringing a nationally recognized brand to our city.

Now, jobs at the plant are in danger again. The state Liquor and Lottery Commission is considering de-listing 50ml bottles of liquor in Maine — the bottles commonly referred to as “nips.” Half of the nips sold in Maine are the Fireball variety, which are bottled right here in Lewiston. So if one of the main products produced there is de-listed, then jobs may be de-listed, too.

That would be very unfortunate, as the company has indicated that it could move around 30 part-time positions to full-time if allowed to continue to grow. I also understand Sazerac is considering a $1 million expansion at the Lewiston plant, and I am sure they have had to put that on hold as well.

The loss of any jobs is not a good thing for Lewiston, our region, or our state. We should be excited to have a company willing to expand in our area. A $1 million expansion project brings with it not only jobs for the company expanding, but also jobs for construction workers and others who would work on the project. That would be great news for Sazerac’s employees and for our city.

Things are looking up in Lewiston. We have businesses opening and an active downtown. But while we are not at rock bottom, we are not out of the woods yet, and we certainly can’t afford to put more than 100 jobs and an expansion project at risk. Sazerac is a successful privately-owned company that pays taxes to the city of Lewiston and brings revenue to the state of Maine. They provide jobs to our friends and neighbors — jobs that have been put at risk before, and I hope won’t be again.

It is not only the economic impact for Lewiston, either. There are also the many businesses throughout the city and state that sell nips. Liquor stores, convenience stores — all of those types of places employ people and contribute to their local economies and the revenue of the state. Think about the stores close to New Hampshire — do we want to lose more business to our tax-friendly neighbor to the west? If people on the border can just drive across to buy their 50ml bottles, they will probably do that instead of spending more on larger bottles here in Maine.


Part of the argument raised during this debate about nips has been about drinking and driving. While I certainly encourage everyone to not drink and drive, I simply don’t believe that banning nips is going to solve that problem.

As a former police officer, I have seen my fair share of drunk driving and public drunkenness. And nowadays when people are stopped for impaired driving, it is impossible to determine if drinking or drugs are the cause.

People are going to drink, and we can educate them about the dangers of drinking and driving, but banning nips isn’t going to stop someone from just getting a larger bottle of alcohol and putting some in a flask.

That said, let me say it again to everyone reading this — don’t drink and drive!

Banning nips in Maine is going to cause more problems for Lewiston than it is going to solve. I want to see Sazerac expand its Lewiston plant, keep jobs in Lewiston, and bring more jobs to Lewiston.

On July 11, I plan to attend the state Liquor and Lottery Commission’s public hearing to let them know how Lewiston benefits from having the Sazerac plant here and to encourage the commissioners not to ban nips in Maine.

Robert Macdonald is mayor of Lewiston.

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