The Maine House of Representatives gave initial approval to a bill that would ban tobacco sales near schools, but only one existing store in the entire state would be impacted. And that store is apparently Fresh Approach, a deli directly across Brackett Street from Reiche Elementary School in Portland’s West End. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

AUGUSTA — The Senate is looking to exempt the only store in the state that would be impacted by a bill prohibiting tobacco sales near schools.

Fresh Approach, a deli across the street from Reiche Elementary School in Portland, would lose its license to sell tobacco under a bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Moonen, D-Portland, that would prohibit tobacco sales within 300 feet of a school.

But the Senate voted unanimously Friday to change the bill to allow existing stores to continue tobacco sales, even if that store is sold to another owner.

Sen. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, said he received many emails from constituents concerned that the bill would create an economic hardship for the store, leading to its closure. Fresh Approach is an overall benefit to the community, Chipman said.

“They have provided food to hungry kids. They have donated to charities,” Chipman said. “(They’re) a family owned small grocery store that’s been there for decades, so I hope we can pass this amendment to allow them to continue to operate and not be unfairly punished by a bill that would really only impact them.”

Sen. Marianne Moore, R-Calais, said she offered the amendment because she’s not confident that only one store would be affected.

“I know Rep. Moonen has stated that there is only one business that is left that falls within that line,” Moore said. “I’m concerned that may not be as accurate as we think, so I want to make sure that we don’t put any business out of business.”

Moore said her amendment would also apply to new owners of an existing business since such licenses can factor into the value and equity of a business, which she would like to preserve.

The bill, L.D. 2157, now heads back to the House of Representatives, where it was approved in a narrow, 74-70, vote on Tuesday.

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