Bill to allow alcohol sales on cruises sails through committee

Posted: February 01, 2017 | Senator Miramant, Veterans and Legal Affairs

AUGUSTA — The Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee gave its unanimous, bipartisan endorsement to a bill by Sen. Dave Miramant, D-Camden, that would allow windjammers, schooners and other vessels to obtain special, short-term licenses to sell and serve alcohol to passengers.

“When needless regulatory barriers exist that prevent businesses from meeting the demands of a changing market, it’s the Legislature’s job to see what can be done to tear down those barriers,” said Sen. Miramant. “This bill will help coastal businesses in Knox County, plain and simple.”

The bill — LD 85, “An Act to Establish a Public Service Berthing Vessel License for the Sale of Liquor” — received a public hearing before the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Monday. The legislation would create a new category of liquor license for vessels that don’t normally serve alcohol but would like to include the service on occasion. The license would cost $100 per excursion or $495 for an annual license.

The owners of the Windjammer Angelique of Camden requested Sen. Miramant to submit the bill after learning there was no license available to fit their desire to occasionally offer beer and wine cruises to potential customers who were interested in sampling local beverages. Demand for a cruise like this has increased as Maine’s reputation as a producer of high-quality beer, wine and spirits has grown.

Available licenses would have been prohibitively expensive, and would have barred passengers from bringing their own alcohol aboard, even when the Angelique was not selling alcoholic beverages. The only other option would have been for the Angelique to hire licensed caterers — creating additional costs for the Angelique not only in fees for catering, but in revenue lost in providing berths to the caterers, who would occupy rooms that would normally have sold for anywhere from $800 to $1,400.

“I’m thankful for the committee’s consideration and happy they saw this issue for what it is — a necessary and reasonable accommodation in state law that will allow coastal businesses like the Angelique to continue to thrive,” said Sen. Miramant. “Whenever possible, the state should do what it can to help entrepreneurs succeed. I’m confident my colleagues in the Senate will support this commonsense solution and vote to approve this bill when it comes before us.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for initial votes. It will face further action in the House and Senate.