Chipman bill would cut red tape for beverage startups

Posted: April 24, 2017 | Senator Chipman

A bill introduced by Sen. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, would cut red tape for small, nonalcoholic beverage producers. It had a public hearing in the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee on April 24.

The bill — LD 1409 “An Act To Reduce Regulations for Small Nonalcoholic Beverage Producers — would allow beverage startups that produce 50,000 gallons or less annually to wash and clean their bottles or cans by hand and to carbonate their beverages by hand.

“When a small business is just getting started in the nonalcoholic beverage industry, they have to meet the same industrial-sized regulations as the larger beverage producers do,” said Sen. Chipman. “For someone just trying to get their idea off the ground, these regulations are a huge financial burden and a deterrent to their company’s success.”

Current law requires all nonalcoholic beverage producers to clean and sanitize their reusable beverage containers by a mechanized process. This machinery is expensive, which can be prohibitive for startup. This bill would cut that cost for the businesses until they are producing their product at a scale that would allow them to both afford the machinery and be producing enough of the product to make hand washing the containers no longer a sustainable business process.

The current requirements “create a barrier to entry that favors large corporations,” said Eric Holstein, a co-founder of Fork Food Lab in Portland. The law “forces small businesses to leave Maine and produce in the surrounding state to that do not have this statute on the books.”

LD 1409 faces further action in the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee and votes in the House and the Senate.