City Moves to Dismiss Case to Overturn ‘nip’ Ban

The City of Chelsea has filed a brief with the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) to dismiss the case brought by nine liquor licensees to overturn the ban on small liquor bottles (50 mL), known as nips.

On Dec. 8, in a hearing at the ABCC, the licensees argued their cause.

However, the City has now filed a motion indicating that the ABCC does not have jurisdiction to decide on the challenge of the ban. The case is somewhat groundbreaking because Chelsea is the first municipality to attempt to ban all nip sales. While few communities find nips a plus due to increased litter and public drinking, the sales are strong pieces of business for many liquor stores – including Chelsea. A number of communities and liquor retailers are watching the case very closely to see what they will do in their communities as well.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the key will be whether there is jurisdiction.

“They will decide on that preliminary issue soon,” he said. “If they have jurisdiction, they’ll decide on the issue. If they decide they don’t have jurisdiction, then the ban stands.”

The motion by the City indicates, “The ABCC is not a super-regulatory authority for review of regulations issued by local licensing authorities, and therefore is not the proper forum for Appellants to challenge the regulations.”

One of the other objections in the motion are that the licensees did not appeal the decision until many months later, in September, while the ban started in May.

Chelsea moved last year to institute the ban on nips, and it has been in effect for many months. A second attempt to ban 100 mL bottles of liquor was tabled until the case was heard and decided.

Ambrosino said he has noticed some definite improvements since the ban went into effect.

“I do notice a little difference,” he said. “I think the Downtown Task Force police officers will tell you the same. I think it’s been effective. It’s one piece of many efforts we have in place. There’s a lot of things that contribute to the absence of that problem, including all the social services and resources going on as well.”

The licensees are expected to file their brief in response to the City’s motion to dismiss within the week.

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