Massachusetts House Approves Restaurant Relief Act

A CapeCod.com article written on June 6, 2020 by Luke Leitner details the passage of legislation that authorizes restaurants to begin offering mixed drinks with food takeout orders, to provide expanded outdoor table service with alcohol, subject to local approval, and allow restaurants to delay the filing of meals tax payments collected this year, while capping the fees charged by third-party delivery service companies for online food orders. The bill still requires Senate approval.

Massachusetts House Approves Restaurant Relief Act

HYANNIS – Massachusetts representatives have passed legislation to assist restaurants in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Restaurant Relief Act” eases outdoor dining restrictions, expands alcohol delivery options to include mixed drinks, extends takeout options to February 2021, waives interest on late meals tax payments, and caps the amount that can be charged for a food delivery service.

Indoor table service is still prohibited for the time being.

“Local restaurants have been hit hard during this crisis,” said Falmouth State Representative Dylan Fernandes.

“Restaurants on the Cape and Islands have only a few short months to make the money they need to stay afloat. There’s no question that many restaurants will be devastated by losses as a result of the pandemic, but this legislation provides some needed relief.”

Last year, the House created the Restaurant Promotion Commission, which is being repurposed as the Restaurant Recovery Commission.

The bill builds on the House’s previous action to permit alcohol delivery with meals during the Governor’s State of Emergency.

“The bill is in response to the pleas from restaurant owners in my district who are literally starving for business,” said State Representative Will Crocker.  

“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. I hope for swift action in the Senate and final enactment, we must do what we can to save our small businesses.”

Crocker added that changes the bill will allow localities to bypass the current licensing review process conducted by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

Restaurants will see additional financial relief from a temporary change in the state’s procedure for collecting meals tax payments.

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 will have until September 20 to submit meals taxes collected from June 1 through August 31, and will not have to submit meals taxes for September 1 through December 31 until January 20, 2021.

The bill, which passed the House on a vote of 156 to 0, still requires Senate approval.

Read the article here.