AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine lawmaker may face an uphill battle to allow bars to serve alcohol an hour later.
The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee will meet on Monday to begin reviewing Maine’s alcohol laws for any errors and inconsistencies. Rep. Scott Strom, R-Pittsfield, a member of the panel, has submitted a bill to extend last calls in Maine from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.
It will have to be approved by a Democratic-led panel of legislative leaders to advance when the Legislature reconvenes in 2020 and history is against Strom. Five bills to extend bar hours have been introduced since 2007, according to research from the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library, but none succeeded.
Other efforts to loosen liquor laws have been successful. A bill allowing alcohol to be served at 6 a.m. when St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday was signed into law by then-Gov. Paul LePage in 2013. Liquor can be delivered from 5 a.m. on any day until 1 a.m. the following day — except in areas in which liquor may not be sold on Sundays — after a 2015 law.
Strom said he sees Maine’s last call law as being out of place and his bill provides an opportunity to bolster the state’s tourism industry.
“Before moving back to Maine, I was in the Navy, and was stationed in some places where drinking did go to 2 a.m.,” he said, pointing to Virginia Beach, Virginia. “Opposition to these bills have said extending the hours will lead to more DWIs, more domestic violence, but I never saw evidence of that.”
A 2010 American Journal of Medicine study found that “changes of less than 2 hours were unlikely to significantly affect excessive alcohol consumption and related harms,” while increases of more than two hours or more increased alcohol-related harms.
LePage caused division among police with a similar effort in 2015, according to the Portland Press Herald. Maine’s then-state police chief said he saw no detrimental effects to public safety. Others, including Waterville Police Chief Joe Massey, said it would challenge law enforcement.
Should Strom’s effort be successful, it would put Maine in line with four other New England states that allow 2 a.m. last calls. New Hampshire is the only other state in the region that sets it at 1 a.m., according to StateLiquorLaws.com.