AUGUSTA — Lawmakers have overridden a veto of a bill affixing a 5-cent deposit to miniature liquor bottles, a move that Gov. Paul LePage warned would prompt him to end “nips” sales in Maine.

The Senate voted 29-6 to overturn LePage’s veto, one day after the House did the same on a 114-31 vote. As a result, Maine retailers will be required to start collecting a nickel deposit on every sale of 50-milliliter liquor bottles, which can then be refunded as part of the state’s decades-old “bottle bill” recycling program.

All eyes will now turn, once again, to the LePage administration. In his veto message to lawmakers, LePage wrote that they should increase penalties for littering or take other steps to combat drinking and driving.

“Absent increased penalties, which this bill failed to impose, an alternative approach is to discontinue the sale of 50 ml bottles containing alcohol all together,” LePage wrote. “If this bill passes, I have directed the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage and Lottery Operations to work with the Liquor and Lottery Commission to delist these products for sale in Maine.”

Nips sales have soared in recent years, but so has the problem of nips litter. The bill, L.D. 56, originally proposed a refundable 15-cent deposit on every nips purchase as a way to discourage buyers from carelessly tossing the bottle out of the car window while encouraging others to collect the nips from roadside ditches or along the curb to cash them in for the deposit.

Maine liquor stores sold an estimated 8.4 million nips bottles in fiscal year 2016. That figure is expected to grow to 12 million this year, propelled in part by the popularity of a single brand, Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, that is bottled in Lewiston. The CEO of Fireball’s manufacturer, Sazerac Co., has warned that banning nips sales in Maine would have “a drastic impact on our company and our employees.”


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