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June 4, 2018

Tasting law adds ‘spirit’ to farmers’ market offerings

A winery, brewery and two distilleries have been approved in the state to hold tastings at farmers' markets.

The Portland Press Herald reported the businesses are taking advantage of a new law, overseen by Maine's Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, that went into effect in November 2017, making it legal for vendors of Maine-made alcoholic beverages to offer samples at farmers markets. Before the law, vendors of Maine-made wine, cider and beer could sell at approved farmers markets, but distillers of hard alcohol weren't allowed, and no one had been allowed to do tastings.

Eight more vendor applications are pending approval, Tim Poulin, deputy director of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, told the Press Herald. Eight of Maine's 135 farmers' markets have been approved as hosts for alcohol vendors for the 2018 season.

According to the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets, both the farmers' market and the liquor vendor must apply to the the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations for permission for the vendor to sell liquor at the market. The farmers' market that wishes to host the liquor vendor must obtain formal approval from the municipality in which the market operates.

The market must have at least six vendors selling farm and food products, not including the liquor vendor, in order to qualify to host a liquor vendor. A vendor who wishes to sell liquor at a farmers' market that has already obtained approval from the bureau must apply to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages for authorization at least 30 days in advance, submitting a list of all sites where the retailer plans to sell liquor during any given month, including the addresses and times of the farmers market.

People who accept samples can walk around the market with a sample in hand, but can't leave the market with the sample, according to the regulations.

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