The state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) finally ruled on the appeal by several liquor stores in Chelsea regarding the 2018 ban on nip liquor bottles – with the ABCC saying it has no jurisdiction to hear or rule on the case and, thus, sending it to state Superior Court if the matter is appealed further.
Officially, in the ruling on May 26, the ABCC allowed the City of Chelsea’s motion to dismiss the appeal by eight liquor stores in the city – all of which said they were harmed by the decision to outlaw the 100mL bottles that City leaders argued contributed to litter issues and public drinking.
“The appropriate forum for the licensees to challenge the local licensing authority’s ban on 100 ml bottles is with the Superior Court, likely in a declaratory judgment action pursuant to (state law),” read the decision. “In any event, the Commission is not the appropriate forum for this challenge.”
City officials had hoped that the ABCC would rule to dismiss the appeal, and believe they have a better chance to survive the challenge in court – as the rules are more strict and judgments aren’t as arbitrary as at the quasi-judicial ABCC.
Many communities in Greater Boston have been waiting and watching for this decision, and will continue to watch the Superior Court proceedings. Most municipalities had hoped they could follow Chelsea’s lead in banning the nip bottles, as they are widely considered a nuisance in urban areas.
Councilor Roy Avellaneda, a former License Board member, said he was glad to hear the decision went the City’s way. He had championed the idea for several years, noting that he has lived with seeing public drinking since he was a kid growing up in Chelsea and seeing people drink the nip bottles in Bellingham Square.
“I’m very happy that the ABCC decided in favor of Chelsea’s License Board and City’s position that the ABCC had no jurisdiction on deciding if NIPS can be sold in the city,” he said. “I’m sure the Plaintiffs will consider and file an appeal to the Massachusetts Superior Court to overturn the ban. My position has not changed since I have advocated for the ban and more so I now have actual data to support my reason for the ban. In the two years we have had the NIP ban in place, Chelsea is a cleaner place without the litter of NIP bottles all over and more importantly and primary reason for my advocacy is that our streets are safer and healthier.”
Avellaneda said the volume of responses for alcohol-related calls by police, fire and ambulance is down almost 75 percent. He argues the decision might come down to a public health argument, and said eliminating the nip bottles has taken pressure off of first responders, and also made the downtown more family-friendly.
In the argument against accepting the appeal, the ABCC said the license hadn’t been modified, but a regulation had been established for every licensee.
“Here, none of the licensees’ licenses were ‘modified,’” read the decision. “Instead, the local licensing authority, pursuant to its authority to promulgate ‘reasonable requirements’ for the way all licensees conduct their business, banned the sale of 100 ml bottles of alcohol, not as a sanction for violating a law, but on considerations of public health and safety. “While the local licensing authority has the statutory authority to pass reasonable requirements regarding the conduct of a licensed business, even if the Commission believed a local licensing authority’s requirement to be unreasonable on a statutorily appropriate appeal, it only has the power to not enforce the requirement on any appeal before it,” continued the decision.