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Disc golf course seeks right to get a liquor permit

Anyone who’s hung around a golf course for long has noticed that for many players, drinking and golf go hand in hand.

It’s not so different for the fast-growing sport of disc golf, which features competitors flinging plastic discs at distant targets, except for one thing: Course owners can’t get licenses to serve alcohol regularly.

For Peter Ruby, the owner of Sabattus Disc Golf, the prospect of adding that capacity is alluring.

Anyone who’s hung around a golf course for long has noticed that for many players, drinking and golf go hand in hand.

It’s not so different for the fast-growing sport of disc golf, which features competitors flinging plastic discs at distant targets, except for one thing: Course owners can’t get licenses to serve alcohol regularly.

For Peter Ruby, the owner of Sabattus Disc Golf, the prospect of adding that capacity is alluring.

Not only would it satisfy a request he’s heard from many players during the course’s decade-long existence, it would also help him make the business grow into what he hopes can become something viable year-round.

“We just want to be in compliance” and serve customers, Ruby said.

The hitch, though, is that the law governing alcoholic beverages doesn’t specifically allow him to get a license the way it does for regular golf courses and ski resorts. Ruby wants to change that.

Fortunately for him, his state senator, Republican Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls, didn’t hesitate when Ruby asked him for help getting a bill introduced to make it possible for disc golf facilities to get licenses.

“The decision to sponsor this legislation was an easy one for me,” Mason said. “It’s long been established that golf courses and ski areas can obtain a license to have a beverage cart or snack bar on the course to offer players refreshments while they play so they don’t need to break from the activity.”

“It only makes sense that we allow disc golf courses the same opportunity,” said Mason, who testified in favor of the measure recently before the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, a panel on which he has some influence as its co-chairman.

Ruby said he and Mason each testified in favor of the bill. Nobody spoke against it.

The panel was ready to approve it, Ruby said, until a state official suggested waiting briefly to check the statute language that lets golf courses apply for liquor permits to make sure the wording is appropriate simply to add disc golf courses to it.

Ruby said he thinks that’s a good idea because it’s important that the disc golf courses that seek permits meet a high standard. He said he wouldn’t want a shoddy operation elsewhere to undermine the reputation of his course.

Ruby said he’s already had some events with craft beers at the course using a catering license. He said he’d like to expand on that to do more with craft brewers, including charitable activities.

There are about 43 disc golf courses in Maine, most of them small operations with a limited group of users. A few, though, are bigger businesses that might embrace the opportunity Mason’s bill would give them.

Ruby said his business has always aimed higher, pushing to appeal to families, women and youngsters, a formula that’s provided “a great deal of success” over the past 10 years.

He said he’s eager to see the business keep growing. Its online shop is doing well, he said, spurred in part by the high-speed internet access that he credited Mason with helping to provide.

“He’s been a huge advocate in helping us grow,” Ruby said.

Ruby has four courses spread among more than 100 acres on Bowdoinham Road.