Island Liquor Stores Brace For Nip Ban On Jan. 1

Jason Graziadei •

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Nantucket’s package stores are scrambling to sell their existing inventory of nips - the small 100 ml containers of booze - ahead of the town’s official ban on plastic nip bottles that goes into effect on Jan. 1.

The nip ban was approved by Nantucket voters at the 2022 Annual Town Meeting on a 496 to 73 vote as a way to reduce litter around the island. Earlier this month, the town informed island liquor stores that it would begin enforcing the ban on Jan. 1, 2023 - as specified in the bylaw passed at Town Meeting - with no grace period to sell existing inventory. Package stores were also informed that there was no possibility of selling their remaining plastic nip bottles back to their distributor.

With just a week left before the ban takes effect, Nantucket’s liquor stores are discounting nips and getting creative to unload their remaining inventory ahead of the Jan. 1 deadline.

At The Islander liquor store on Old South Road, manager George Metri said he’s trying to sell more than 3,000 nips over the next week, and he acknowledged that the ban on the popular product would certainly have an impact on the business.

“That’s a lot of nips,” Metri said. “I didn’t give it enough time to really focus on like, Jesus what am I going to do now?. But we are under the law and we have to do what it takes. We’re going to struggle with what we have, to get rid of it.”

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At Hatch’s Package Store on Orange Street, manager Zack Held is selling grab bags of 10 nips for $10 as part of a “Nip Blowout” sale to move its remaining inventory. “Get ‘em before they’re gone!” the sign reads.

At Murray’s Beverage store on Main Street, nips are being marketed at a discount for $2 as part of a “stocking stuffer nip sale,” to unload its final products ahead of the ban.

Alanna Lucas, co-owner of Nantucket Wine and Spirits on Sparks Avenue, said Thursday that she is reminding customers of the ban as they come in, and similarly discounting nips to get them out the door. “And I’m not sure what to do with this shelf,” she said, pointing to the nip display that was sized specifically for the small 100 ml bottles.

While the citizen petition to ban plastic nip bottles was passed in May, the town only notified island liquor stores about how it would enforce the new bylaw earlier this month, shortly after the Christmas Stroll event.

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The bylaw specifically bans single-use, petroleum-based plastic containers of alcoholic beverages containing less than or equal to 100 ml. Glass-bottled nips do not fall under the ban. The town informed Nantucket’s package stores that they would not be allowed to sell their existing inventory after Jan. 1. With regard to enforcement, the town is advising that it “shall be the discretionary responsibility of the Town Manager or her/his designee. Police officers and health agents have the authority to enforce this bylaw. The Town Manager shall determine the inspection process to be followed...”

Any stores that violate the bylaw would be subject to a non-criminal disposition fine of $50 for the first offense, and up to $300 for subsequent offenses.

The nip ban originated as a citizen petition by island resident Bruce Mandel, and garnered widespread support at the 2022 Annual Town Meeting

“This is important to reduce litter and toxic elements flowing into our lands and beaches and the Nantucket environment,” said Pam Murphy, who spoke on behalf of Mandel at the meeting.

Murphy cited other towns - including Chelsea and Falmouth - that had already banned nips.

“This is not about drinking alcohol, this is about protecting Nantucket’s finite resources, natural environment and aquifer,” she added. “These are tailored for one purpose: on-the-go consumption which creates litter”

The proposal also received support from charter boat captain Bob DeCosta, who said he finds hundreds of them around his boat every summer, as well as Anne Dewez, a longtime member of the Nantucket Clean Team who said nips are “one of the most frequent items we pick up.”

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But some critics told the Current that nips - while indeed a source of litter - sometimes play an important role in helping people moderate their alcohol use. By buying nips, they said, some customers are purposefully limiting the amount of alcohol by purchasing a smaller amount. Now there are concerns that those people may end up buying larger quantities.

Other towns in Massachusetts that have banned nips include: Chelsea, Falmouth, Mashpee, Newtown, and Wareham

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