Plymouth residents who prefer drinking their alcohol by the nip will not have to drive to neighboring towns to buy one after voters narrowly overturned a ban on the tiny containers that was approved by Town Meeting in October.
After a long and often heated campaign by opponents and proponents of a prohibition on the sale of alcoholic beverages in containers of up to 100 ml, voters rejected the measure in Saturday’s special election.
The preliminary tally was 3,682 against the ban and 3,517 in favor of backing the Town Meeting decision, or about 51 percent against the ordinance and 49 percent for it.
The turnout on a blustery but mild day was 7,199, or 15.46 percent of registered voters. That was on par with the 15 percent turnout the May 2023 town election, which included a ballot question proposing to change the town charter. On Saturday, the nip ban – which would have taken effect in July – was the only issue on the ballot.
“I think it shows that people support consumer choice, that people support the small businesses,” said Brian Dunn, a member of the Plymouth Advisory and Finance Committee and a leading opponent of a ban.
Ken Stone, one of the organizers of the effort to retain the ban, called the outcome an example of “democracy in action.”
“It was extraordinarily close for this kind of an election, and as more and more towns pass these, maybe in the future we’ll come back at it,” Stone said.
The issue had been front and center for months, as evidenced by the number of signs sprouting on lawns across town.
After Town Meeting passed the ban by just five votes, Plymouth’s liquor store owners quickly gathered enough signatures to force Saturday’s election.
Supporters said that it would reduce litter in town, citing Falmouth’s success in largely eliminating nips from roadsides after it passed a similar regulation. They said business at liquor stores would not suffer because of the restriction.
But opponents argued otherwise, saying it would hurt local businesses and force customers to choose between driving to surrounding towns to buy nips or staying in Plymouth and purchasing larger containers of alcoholic beverages. That would cause some people to drink more, they said, including while driving.
Store owners received most of their support from industry groups, including the Massachusetts Package Stores Association, the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of Massachusetts, and Sazerac, a Kentucky distiller of more than 450 spirits. Although final figures are not yet in, they appear to have outspent supporters of the ban by a wide margin.
Most of the money the “yes” side collected came in the form of small donations from Plymouth residents.
A “no” advertisement placed by Pioppi’s Liquors owner Peter Balboni in the Old Colony Memorial newspaper in December caused a stir by listing nonprofits the store had supported during the year and in return asking them for their support to overturn the ban. Balboni, a leader of the opposition, later said the ad was aimed at members of those organizations, not the groups themselves.
Only one of Plymouth’s neighboring towns, Wareham, has a ban on nips in place.
Fred Thys can be reached at email@example.com.
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