Put a Cork in It

Wining children?

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Under a new Maine law, wine tastings must be conducted in a manner that "precludes the possibility of observation by children," a provision so broad that most shops are now afraid to offer their customers so much as a sip.

Beth Hudson, owner of Bachus House of Wine in Belgrade Lakes, is considering drawing blinds and installing draperies in her glass-fronted store, but she worries she might still violate the law. "If a door opened in such a way that a child walking by—and a child is defined as someone under 15—would be walking by and happened to glance in," Hudson complained to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, "they might be able to look into the store at that moment and see an adult with a glass of wine in their hand." It's perfectly legal, meanwhile, for that same child to witness unabashed wine consumption through the windows of restaurants, bars, hotels, and private homes in the Pine Tree State.

Even the law's sponsor, state Rep. David Webster (D-Freeport), worries that it could have a chilling effect on local businesses. He blames overzealous public safety officials, however, rather than his own sloppy handiwork. Webster plans to introduce an amendment next year exempting small wine shops from his law.

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