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Council Subcommittee Votes 'No' on Nip Ban in Pittsfield
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
04:45PM / Tuesday, June 07, 2022
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Berkshire Wine & Liquor owner Jigar Sinroza explains how a nip-bottle ban would affect his business at Monday's Ordinance and Rules meeting.

Pinal J. Shah, owner of Harte's, shows the subcommittee a poster he keeps in his window and has posted to Facebook to encourage patrons to dispose of their nip bottles.

 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Nips are safe in the city for now.

Local liquor store owners persuaded the Ordinances and Rules subcommittee to reject a citywide nip bottle ban on Monday.

The panel unanimously voted against a petition from attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo III requesting to ban the sale of the miniature booze bottles in Pittsfield.

Owners of Harte's Package and Variety, Hashim's Package Store, Liquor's Inc., Chico's Wine and Spirits, and George's Liquor Store and Berkshire Wine and Liquors attended the meeting to speak against to ordinance. They acknowledged that nip-bottle littering — and littering in general — is a problem but said that a ban is not the solution.

"A new ban would take away an important source of revenue for small businesses recovering from a challenging year," Chico's owner Kayur Shah said.

"Nips account for 30 to 70 percent of our liquor, that's a lot and it will hurt stores a lot."

Data was provided to the councilors that outlined the impact of nip sales on the city liquor stores' total revenue. According to the report, most do about 50 percent of their liquor sales in nips.

"According to the data that we got from the distributor, Pittsfield alone sells $2 million worth of nips a year," Shah added.

The proprietors explained that they have signage to encourage responsible disposal of the bottles and support community cleanups and increased efforts.

"We all want to find a solution to all litter, not just nips," Pinal J. Shah, owner of Harte's said. "And we think that just banning nips will not solve the litter problem."

Del Gallo proposed this ban to the subcommittee in early May because the 50-milliliter bottles are not returnable, often can't be recycled because of their tiny size, and are a frequent component of litter along the streets. 

He called the discarded bottles a "horrible mess" and said they cause a tremendous amount of litter.

The councilors said they were originally on board with the proposal but have changed their minds after hearing from business owners and getting a different perspective on the situation. The panel unanimously voted the petition down.

"I'd like to give the local businesses a shot at doing what they say to help the situation," Ward 1 Councilor Kenneth Warren said. "Because, I think it was pointed out, they're not the sole cause of the situation and I don't think they should bear the brunt of solving the problem, bear the brunt of taking the blame for it."

Ward 6 Councilor Dina Guiel Lampiasi pointed out that these business owners are local people who are part of the community and that there are several stores on the city borders that they would lose customers to if the ban was enacted.

Councilor at Large Peter White referenced one store owner's testimony that people buy nips to control the amount of alcohol that they drink and said he had been contacted by several people who said that they do just that.

Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio said he picks up about 15 nip bottles on his tree line when he mows the lawn but found an issue in the fact that it is a "certain clientele" doing the littering and not the general public.

"Fifty percent of me wants to make this law and make this stuff disappear," he said.

"Fifty percent of me doesn't want to do this because it's a certain clientele doing this and are we going to penalize the behavior of certain clientele to all these business owners' revenues that they contribute to feed their families and contribute to the city in their taxes?"

The petition will be sent back to the full council with a negative recommendation.

White added a recommendation that the subcommittee would like to see the Berkshire delegation push for a statewide bottle deposit.

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