March 9, 2013

Bill to extend St. Patrick's Day bar hours caught in LePage limbo

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Brian Boru co-owner Daniel Steele, at right, chats with patrons from behind the bar of the Portland Irish Pub on Friday, March 8, 2013.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Fredette declined to say whether Republicans would vote to override a veto and allow the law to take effect before March 17.

If LePage were to veto the bill, lawmakers could override it the next legislative day, Thursday. At that point, the bill would become law once it's assigned a chapter number, which could happen that day.

LePage could allow the bill to become law without his signature. That takes 10 days, which means that bar owners -- and their customers -- wouldn't benefit until March 17, 2019, the next time St. Patrick's Day will fall on a Sunday.

On Thursday, Grotton, with the restaurant association, said Hobbins told him he was pulling the bill, because he didn't want to give the governor "the pleasure of vetoing his bill."

But Grotton said Hobbins might not withdraw the bill because "he's under a lot of pressure from the Irish community to let the chips fall where they may so the (bar owners) know who to blame (if it fails)."

The news spread quickly to bar owners including Steele, at Brian Boru.

"I think this is endemic of Washington politics," Steele said Friday. "Nothing gets done. The small man pays."

On Friday, Hobbins said Grotton was mistaken. He said he didn't plan to pull the bill but he may amend it.

Hobbins acknowledged that he is frustrated with the negative attention brought to his proposal.

"I obviously never thought a well-intentioned, innocuous bill would get demeaned this way," he said. "It's not a consumption bill; it's about the St. Patrick's Day tradition and helping small businesses."

On that point, he and Steele agree.

Steele said he employs 25 full- and part-time workers. All of them, he said, work on St. Patrick's Day.

"There are numerous bartenders who rely on these hours to make their money," he said. "Single mothers in school, active Marine Corps reservists using tip money to pay college bills."

Steele doesn't know what will happen to the proposal but he's considering reaching out to his nearby rival, the Ri Ra Irish Pub, to hold a joint news conference.

"They're my competition, but I realize that a rising tide raises all ships," Steele said. "If I can go down there and show solidarity with Ri Ra, then maybe those immature people up there (in Augusta) can sure as heck get together for (something) that is beneficial to everyone."

He added, "But of course they won't."

Steve Mistler -- 620-7016


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