AUGUSTA, Maine — Legislation proposed by Rep. Paul Gilbert, D-Jay, would make it easier for “Joe Six Pack” to pick up that rack of cold ones on his way home.

That’s the idea behind a bill allowing those who sell alcohol to start an hour earlier than they currently can. It means on most days those who sell alcohol for consumption off premise could open as early as 5 a.m.

Gilbert said the measure is in response to the changing hours of mill workers and others in his community who now often work 12-hour shifts. Gilbert said Thursday the end of the work day for many comes in the early morning hours and it’s no different than that of a person whose work day ends in the late afternoon.

“The idea was brought to me by a convenience store owner in Jay — they’ve been in business about 50 years in Jay,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said in years past the local mills worked three eight-hour shifts — with the early morning shift ending at 7 a.m. “So this wasn’t an issue for them,” Gilbert said.

But now the early morning shift ends at 5 a.m. “This would help treat customers alike, no matter when they work.”

The bill, LD 15, was tabled by the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, but only so it could be combined with other bills dealing with alcohol during this legislative session, committee members said.

Gilbert said he sensed there was very little opposition to the change, which basically expands the hours alcohol can be bought and-or delivered legally by an hour a day.

Another part of the measure would extend the sale of alcohol to 2 a.m. on New Years Day.

Gilbert said he also believes the bill will be good for business because when people stop at the store they often buy more than just what they go for.

He said some people have voiced concern that it would lead to more drinking and driving, but the bill doesn’t change any of the laws around driving under the influence.

“We are talking about somebody who is getting out of work, they want to buy a six-pack of beer to bring home and they will be able to do that,” Gilbert said.

One other bill working its way through the Legislature would make it legal to purchase alcohol earlier in the day on Sunday, if that Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day — as it is this year.

Scott Thistle

Scott Thistle is the State Politics Editor for the Lewiston Sun Journal. He has covered federal, state and local politics in Maine for nearly two decades.