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As the craft beer scene continues to explode throughout southern Maine, police have altered their enforcement techniques to pull over and arrest more people for operating under the influence (OUI). By patrolling around breweries and craft beer bars on popular nights and on busy streets, police hope to make more arrests than before.
In only the past decade or so, microbreweries and craft beers have exploded in popularity as more and more people look for alternatives to the “same old beer.” The newfound interest in something new has led to a resurgence in forgotten styles of beer, like porters and India Pale Ales (IPAs), and led garage brewers to start up their own small breweries and sell their beers, rather than just enjoy them with friends.
Now, there are more than 150 breweries in Maine, alone, with microbreweries in all counties and in most towns. In the small town of Biddeford, alone, population 21,000, there’s Banded Brewing Company and Nuts & Bolts Brewing. Cross the river into Saco, and you’ll find Barreled Souls Brewing as well as Run of the Mill, and the Funky Bow Brewery and Beer Company over towards Lyman.
Other areas in Maine – especially Portland and Bangor – have even hotter craft beer scenes.
One group of people who have noticed a trend towards drinking alcohol in breweries and craft pubs has been the police. They see tasting rooms and microbreweries as strong potential sources of drunk driving and have begun to monitor them for events and popular nights when they are likely to be filled with patrons. On those nights, police step up their patrols on major streets leaving the brewery or craft beer bar, looking to pull drivers over for minor traffic violations so they can gather more evidence of an OUI crime.
In some rare cases, this increased enforcement comes in the form of a sobriety checkpoint. However, the extra work and manpower that go into sobriety checkpoints make them inefficient for policing patrons who are just leaving a brewery, without someone else going on – there just aren’t enough people to make a checkpoint worth it. Additionally, police have to notify the media about a sobriety checkpoint at least 24 hours before conducting one, putting patrons on the alert.
More common are traditional saturation patrols. These are police officers whose sole job is to spend their shifts on the hunt for drunk drivers. They are stationed on major thoroughfares around breweries and craft beer bars on popular nights and do not respond to typical calls.
People who enjoy the new beer scene in Maine and regularly frequent Maine’s many microbreweries may have seen the increased police presence outside their favorite tasting rooms. Extra police are not there by mistake. They are on the hunt for OUI violations and will use pretextual stops to find it.
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