The liquor industry will stage a defense of one of its bestselling products as the Mashpee Board of Selectmen consider banning the sale of alcoholic beverages sold in miniature bottles, or “nips,” on Monday, November 2.
The selectmen postponed a vote on the potential ban in August after a tense and jumbled virtual hearing saw pushback from the Massachusetts Package Stores Association and local vendors who said the effects of the ban could be devastating to businesses.
The chairman of the selectmen, John J. Cotton, and selectman Andrew R. Gottlieb indicated in August they would vote for the ban should the business community not return to the table with a viable solution to address the amount of litter caused by nip bottles.
Both selectmen described nips as a significant contributor to litter in Mashpee. Mr. Cotton also said the prevalence of nip bottles littered on the side of the road has led him to the conclusion that the sale of the small alcoholic beverages “enables or it makes it so easy to drink and drive.”
The agenda for the upcoming selectmen’s meeting includes a public hearing on a ban on 50-milliliter nip bottles and bottles up to 100 milliliters. Businesses would have to abide by the ban to receive or renew their liquor license.
Ryan Kelleher, a Mashpee resident who is a sales representative for Martignetti Companies, a New England wine and spirits distributor, said such a ban could disrupt his income.
Mr. Keller’s sales route includes 38 stores from Rockland to Harwich, including several stores in Mashpee, he said. With no salary, Mr. Kelleher said he relies entirely on commission.
Last year, 50-milliliter nip bottles accounted for 29 percent of his business, he said.
A ban in Mashpee would mean “thousands of dollars that I am not going to be able to sell in nips,” Mr. Kelleher said. “There’s no way to make up that income.”
Falmouth Town Meeting passed a ban on nip bottles last month, and though the ban does not take effect until October 2021, Mr. Kelleher said, “in Falmouth it was a $5,000 income loss right then and there.”
“This is the most challenging economic climate we’ve ever faced with the pandemic,” he said. “Come up with an actual solution not to just ban everything but to try and clean everything.”
Mr. Kelleher said he is aware nip bottles contribute to litter and often picks them up when he sees them on the ground.
“I don’t think banning it will completely erase the problem,” he said, suggesting that outreach programs, community cleanup events or additional trash bins might address the litter problem more effectively.
Dena M. Rymsha, the owner of Liberty Liquors in Mashpee, suggested similar measures to address the litter problem and noted that nips are not the only trash that contribute to litter.
“I think that as a community we should come together and fix the trash problem rather than just banning one specific industry,” Ms. Rymsha said. “How is it fair that four people sitting on the board can say, ‘Boom, you can’t sell these products?’”
Nip bottles account for 10 to 15 percent of sales at Liberty Liquors, Ms. Rymsha said, and the ongoing pandemic has already made business more difficult.
Since the start of the pandemic, Ms. Rymsha said she has lost five employees at one of her two stores. She also owns Liberty Warehouse Liquors in Buzzards Bay.
“And now, for the town to go and ban something on us, we’ve just suffered the hardest seven months of our lives,” she said.
A ban on nip bottles could push customers to stores in other towns and leave Liberty Liquors and other liquor vendors in Mashpee at a disadvantage, Ms. Rymsha said.
She also argued the ban would do little to prevent litter, since people would buy nips elsewhere.
Moreover, Ms. Rymsha argued that house parties, restaurants and bars contribute just as much to drinking and driving, if not more, than liquor stores.
“Are people drinking and driving when they leave the liquor store? I hope not,” she said. “We do our due diligence to make sure our customers are not under any kind of influence.”
Selectman Thomas O’Hara said during the August hearing he does not support the ban. Selectman David W. Weeden and Selectwoman Carol A. Sherman did not state whether they support the ban.