Several Everett City Councilors on Monday night – with the blessings of State Sen. Sal DiDomenico and State Rep. Joe McGonagle – called for a new ordinance to be drafted and vetted in committee that would ban the sale of nip liquor bottles in Everett, a move that was first tried in Chelsea three years ago and has survived all challenges thus far.
The matter was brought to the table by Councilors Rosa DiFlorio and Fred Capone, who had invited DiDomenico and McGonagle up to speak about the bills on Beacon Hill that look to limit the proliferation of the nip liquor bottles discarded on the streets. While both explained their efforts to get the 50 mL and 100 mL sized nips into the Bottle Bill, they also informed the Council that Chelsea and other municipalities had taken quick action to simply ban them.
DiDomenico said that while they work on a long-term solution with the Bottle Bill, the Council could take quick action like Chelsea and simply institute a ban.
McGonagle said he totally agreed with that and urged the Council to ban them.
“It’s a horrible, horrible thing happening in these cities with the nip bottles,” said McGonagle. “I really agree with what Chelsea did. If the Council wants to stop nips here now, they can simply pass an ordinance and ban it here in the City of Everett. I’ve been putting up with them on my property for 30 years. I would be supportive of you banning them.”
That led to quick action by Councilor Michael McLaughlin, who said he’s been following the issue in Chelsea. He noted that Chelsea Council President Roy Avellaneda had led the charge to ban nips in Chelsea several years ago to decrease litter and to help public health by decreasing alcohol abuse and public drinking. All such things, McLaughlin said, have improved in Chelsea and could improve in Everett too.
“I think we can speed the process up by voting as a City Council to ban nip bottles in Everett,” he said. “Chelsea did so and the ABCD said it upheld that…All of our neighborhoods have been drastically impacted by these discarded bottles. I think we can have a great summer and we can get this done before summer and ban nip bottles in Everett. The ABCC did not overrule Chelsea and that means we can do it here too.”
He said he would like to see an ordinance drafted as soon as possible with help from Chelsea and the City Solicitor and the Everett License Commission. He also said he would like to see a Committee meeting with that ordinance in front of them within a week, and potentially a vote within two weeks.
Chelsea banned both nip sizes three years ago, and the ban was appealed by a consortium of Chelsea liquor store owners. Last May, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to overrule the matter and essentially okayed the ban. Any appeal was to be directed to Superior Court, and no appeal has been filed since that ruling in the case.
Meanwhile, last month, AG Maura Healey ruled in favor of a nip bottle ban in Falmouth – which had patterned its ban on Chelsea’s successful ban. AG Healey reasoned that such bans are legal – and no different than banning the use of plastic bags in a City or Town.
“Towns have used their home rule power to prohibit, within their borders, certain commercial activities that state statutes generally recognize as lawful and that are widely accepted in the remainder of the Commonwealth,” the ruling stated. “For example, this Office has approved by-laws banning the sale of plastic water bottles; plastic straws; Styrofoam containers; plastic bags; soft drinks; and balloons.”
In the meantime, Chelsea’s Avellaneda has looked at Police statistics and found that public drunkenness and alcohol abuse calls in Chelsea have gone down notedly since the ban was put in place – making it not only good for cleanliness, but also for public health.
DiFlorio – hearing the new information – said she would actually support an outright ban, and didn’t believe it would hurt any business. She also reminded members that two years ago she tried to ban nips, but was curtailed by legal questions at the City level.
“I’m all for abolishing them,” she said. “I don’t think it hurts the businesses that people don’t buy a nip because they’ll just buy a pint.”
Councilor Capone urged slowness on the matter, though, saying it would be prudent to hear from businesses that sell nip bottles to see what the impact might be on them.
“I think we need to be careful about what kind of economic impact might result on businesses that sell these nips,” he said. “Before the ban them, I’m all for a bottle bill and get them off the street.”
DiDomenico said he wouldn’t be offended if the City were to ban them on their own, and let he and McGonagle work on the long-term bottle bill solution at the same time. He said they had a hearing on his bill to include them in the Bottle Bill last session, and he hoped to have another productive hearing this session and to gain support.
“This is the year everyone seems to be on board,” said DiDomenico.
McGonagle said he would also favor that approach.
“We’ve got a helicopter on Mars right now, so I’m sure we can figure out how to process these little nip bottles and all our plastic bottles at a redemption center,” he said. “Let’s clean up our environment now.”
Councilor Hanlon recommended the City Solicitor get in touch with Chelsea officials about their ban, and figure out what could also be done in Everett.
DiFlorio said she wanted action quick, because things tend to be bogged down at Council lately – with too many Committee meetings and discussions and too little action, she noted.
“I want the job done and the work done without 30 hours of back and forth,” she said. “I’m sorry if I offended anyone, but I want to get this job done.”
The matter was voted to be sent to Legislative Affairs, and for the appropriate City departments to start work on it and to contact those in Chelsea.