Boston’s Potential Ban On Mini Alcohol Bottles

Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS

on May 25, 2023

Miniature alcohol bottles (also called “minis” or “nips”) have become a staple at Boston’s liquor stores. Recently, city councilor Ricardo Arroyo proposed a ban on the bottles, arguing it would improve public health as well as the environment.

On April 3rd, the Council held a hearing on the issue, where some councilors expressed concern over the ban’s potential impact on liquor store profits.

Why Ban Mini Alcohol Bottles In Boston?

Councilor Arroyo first proposed the mini alcohol bottle ban in March. He highlighted how similar bans have benefitted other Massachusetts communities, including Chelsea, Newton, Falmouth, Mashpee, and Wareham.

Leaders from two of these communities, Chelsea and Newton, joined the April 3rd hearing, which was sponsored by Arroyo. There, Boston’s public health and licensing officials discussed the ban’s advantages and disadvantages.

Possible Advantages Of A Mini Alcohol Bottle Ban

According to Arroyo, the ban could protect residents’ health by reducing alcohol abuse. Many Bostonians who abuse alcohol favor the mini bottles because they’re convenient and easy to hide.

For instance, the bottles allow people to drink in their vehicles without getting caught by police.

They also help underage drinkers conceal their alcohol use from their parents.

By preventing these forms of alcohol misuse, the mini bottle ban could reduce alcohol-related dangers such as motor vehicle crashes, violence, and alcohol poisoning (also called alcohol overdose).

Improve Alcohol-Related Issues

Indeed, according to former Chelsea city councilor Roy Avellaneda, the city’s 2018 bottle ban led to a significant decrease in alcohol-related ambulance responses. He logged 720 calls in 2015, 521 calls in 2016, 400 calls in 2018, and just 216 calls in 2020.

The ban also reduced Chelsea’s public intoxication rate. Since 2018, the city has seen a 20% decrease in the number of instances where police have to place an intoxicated person into protective custody.

Environmental Benefits

Avellaneda also said the ban made Chelsea cleaner and more attractive. Before, numerous mini alcohol bottles, which are not recyclable or biodegradable, ended up on the streets.

Boston has a similar problem.

Recently, the community group Keep Hyde Park Beautiful collected 10,000 mini alcohol bottles in under two months. Thus, a ban could greatly benefit the city’s environment.

Possible Disadvantages Of A Mini Alcohol Bottle Ban

Some officials argue that the bottle ban would harm small businesses that sell alcohol.

Robert Mellion, executive director and general counsel for the Massachusetts Package Store Association, said that liquor store sales have plummeted in Chelsea while increasing in nearby areas (64% in East Boston, 26% in Revere, and 14% in Everett).

He fears Boston’s stores would face the same problem.

Would The Ban Really Help Alcohol-Related Issues?

Mellion has also questioned the idea that the ban would decrease alcohol abuse and public intoxication. In a March interview with, he argued the ban would just cause people to buy larger bottles of alcohol, increasing rates of alcohol abuse and addiction.

During the April 3rd hearing, councilor Michael Flaherty echoed Mellion’s concerns about liquor store profits.

Would The Ban Really Help The Environment?

In addition, Boston Public Health Commission Executive Director claimed that despite the positive outcomes in smaller cities like Chelsea, there is no large database linking the ban on mini alcohol bottles to clinical or environmental outcomes.

Councilor Flaherty also argued that when it comes to littering, the Council should focus not on mini alcohol bottles but on the four-packs of clean needles the city gives to intravenous drug users as a form of harm reduction.

He said these needles often litter streets, gutters, parks, and playgrounds.

In response, councilor Arroyo noted that while clean needles improve public health by decreasing infectious diseases among drug users, mini alcohol bottles have no similar medical purpose.

He also said the public health and environmental benefits would outweigh any financial losses faced by liquor store owners.

What’s Next

The Boston City Council did not vote on the ban. To become law, it will need support from Mayor Michelle Wu and the Boston Licensing Board.

In the meantime, Councilor Arroyo plans to soon file a resolution (a document that declares a stance on an issue) urging councilors and the Licensing Board to support the ban.

At the end of the April 3rd hearing, Kathleen Joyce, the head of the Boston Licensing Board, said the ban would likely be challenged in court if passed.

If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol abuse, please reach out to Bedrock Recovery Center. Our inpatient treatment programs offer medical detox, behavioral therapy, and other forms of evidence-based care to help you or your loved one thrive.

  1. Boston Globe Media Partners — Retailers say a sales ban on mini-booze bottles won’t help Boston. But Chelsea leaders say their law was transformational.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Alcohol Use and Your Health
  3. Mass Live — Boston ban on alcohol minis pits health against stores losing money at city hearing
  4. Mass Live — Mini alcohol bottle ban in Boston now in Licensing Board’s hands
  5. WCVB — Proposed ban on miniature liquor bottles takes step forward in Boston

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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