The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to initially approve a bill that would allow restaurants to begin offering mixed drinks with food takeout orders, and provide expanded outdoor table service with alcohol, subject to local approval.
State Rep. Will Crocker (R-Centerville) said, “House Bill 4767, An Act addressing challenges faced by food and beverage establishments resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, is in response to the pleas from restaurant owners in my district who are literally starving for business.
“A streamlined approval process, payment waivers, the ability to sell mixed drinks, and a delivery fee cap will go a long way to helping these businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic,” Crocker said in a statement Thursday. “I hope for swift action in the Senate and final enactment. We must do what we can to save our small businesses.”
The Restaurant Relief Act builds on the guidelines recently issued by Governor Charlie Baker for the state’s Phase 2 re-opening, which could begin as early as June 8.
Phase 2 allows restaurants to begin offering outdoor dining to customers but continues to prohibit indoor table service for now.
H.4767 authorizes local licensing authorities to temporarily approve requests for outdoor table service at restaurants, with alcohol sales, through November 30.
Crocker said this change will allow localities to bypass the current licensing review process conducted by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC). Communities would still need to notify the ABCC once an amended license is approved.
Under the bill, licensed establishments can continue to sell beer and wine for off-premises consumption for the duration of the Governor’s State of Emergency, or until Feb. 28, 2021, whichever is later.
If approved by the Senate, the bill would permit restaurants currently licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption to offer cocktails for off-premises consumption during the same time period, under certain restrictions.
Restaurants will see additional financial relief from a temporary change in the state’s procedure for collecting meals tax payments, Crocker said. Businesses will have the option of delaying their meals tax payments for the remainder of the year, without being assessed any late-file or late-payment penalties or interest. Businesses that choose this option would have until Sept. 20 to submit meals taxes collected from June 1-Aug. 31, and will not have to submit meals taxes for Sept. 1-Dec. 31 until January 20, 2021.
The bill passed the House on a vote of 156-0 on June 3 and still requires Senate approval.