Liquor sales and sampling at farmers’ markets

What you need to know about LD1536

On June 8th, 2017, Gov. Paul LePage signed into law LD1536: An Act to Allow Maine Maunufacturers to Sell Spirits at Farmers’ Markets and to Allow Taste Testings at Farmers’ Markets. The law takes effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns in July.

Some important links:

MRSA 415: Definition of a “farmers’ market” in Maine law
MRSA 1366: Law pertaining to retail liquor sales at farmers’ markets
LD1536: The new law which will allow sampling at markets beginning in Sept. 2017
Committee Amendments: Signed in 2019, this updates and provides clarification on certain aspects of the law.

Selling liquor at farmers’ markets

For some years, it has been legal for licensed manufacturers to sell liquor at farmers’ markets. (“Liquor” includes beer, wine [including cider], and spirits.) 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.

What the market must do:

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 6 vendors selling farm and food products (not including the liquor vendor) in order to qualify to host a liquor vendor. (Click here for the application form: Farmer’s Market application rev. May 2018)

If the market sets up on private property, the application must include a written statement from the property owner acknowledging and permitting the sale of alcohol on the property.

Once municipal approval has been obtained, the market must submit an application to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages. (Markets that have already been approved are listed below along with their license numbers, which they should supply to any new beer/wine/cider/spirits vendors who wish to join the market.) Other requirements may apply.

What the vendor must do:

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 (at a cost of $75/year), submitting a list of all sites where the manufacturer plans to sell liquor during any given month, including the addresses and times of the farmers’ market. 

Taste testings at farmers’ markets

Beginning in November 2017, taste-testing/sampling will be allowed at farmers’ markets, within regulations set by the Legislature and the Bureau. All laws pertaining to selling liquor at farmers’ markets still apply. 

Vendors who are already legally selling liquor at a farmers’ market will not need to take additional steps with the Bureau or with their municipality in order to legally offer taste-testings/sampling, other than notifying the Bureau at least 30 days in advance of the location and times they will be offering taste-testing at markets.

Refer to the law and to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages for specific details. Here are some highlights of the new law, with updates from the 2019 amendments added:

  • The new amendment removes the twice per month limits. Therefore, licensee and manufacturers may sell more than twice per month at any of their registered markets.
  • The samples must be poured on site in strictly regulated sizes, no more than 6 samples per person is allowed, and no fee may be charged for the sample.
  • The licensee/manufacturer must keep a record of when & where it offered tasting/sampling in any given month.
  • Only spirits which have been listed with the Bureau ($150 fee each type and size) or wines/malts that have been registered with the Bureau ($10 fee per type of beer/wine/cider, regardless of size) may be sampled at markets.
  • People who accept samples may not leave the vendor’s booth with them. (The individual vendor’s booth is considered the “licensed premises”, therefore, the alcoholic beverage must be consumed within those premises.)
License # Name of Farmers’ Market Location of Farmers’ Market Town
FM-1431-2 Bath Farmers’ Market Waterfront Park, Commercial Street Bath
FM-1431-32 United Farmers’ Market of Belfast 18 Spring St Belfast
FM-1431-16 Blue Hill Farmer’s Market 172 Ellsworth Road, Fairgrounds Blue Hill
FM-1431-10 Boothbay Farmers’ Market 1 Common Drive Boothbay
FM-1431-8 Brunswick Winter Farmers’ Market 14 Maine Street, Fort Andross Mill Brunswick
FM-1431-36 Cumberland Farmers’ Market 290 Tuttle Rd Cumberland
FM-1431-40 Dexter Farmers’ Market 364 Corinna Rd Dexter
FM-1431-5 Ellsworth Farmers’ Markets 190 and 245 Main St Ellsworth
FM-1431-41 Freeport Farmers’ Market ME Cheese Fest, 184 Burnett Rd Freeport
FM-1431-30 Harrison Farmers’ Market Bridgton Rd Harrison
FM-1431-34 Kennebunk Farmers’ Market 1 Garden St Kennebunk
FM-1431-35 Norway Farmers’ Market Witherell Park Norway
FM-1431-24 Portland Farmers’ Market Deering Oaks Park Portland
FM-1431-38 Sanford Farmers’ market Washington St, Central Park Sanford
FM-1431-20 Skowhegan Farmers’ Market Somerset Grist Mill, 42 Court St Skowhegan
FM-1431-39 Trenton Grange Farmer’ Market Route 3 Trenton
FM-1431-12 Union Farmers’ Market Union Common Union
FM-1431-21 Waldoboro Farmers’ Market  1600 Atlantic Hgwy/Rte 1 Waldoboro
FM-1431-1 Downtown Waterville Farmers’ Market Common St, Castonguay Square Waterville
FM-1431-6 Yarmouth Farmers’ Market 317 Main Street Yarmouth
FM-1431-14 The Gateway Farmers’ Market 1 Stonewall Lane York