COVID-19 House Response: House Passes Bill to Support Commonwealth’s Restaurants

State Rep. Joe McGonagle joined his colleagues in the House to pass legislation that provides more tools to the restaurants of Massachusetts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislative package adopted this week aims to assist a sector that has been hard hit by COVID-19. The measures passed are intended to help restaurants weather the economic crisis in the wake of the pandemic. The package 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 a food delivery service.

In 2019, the House created the Restaurant Promotion Commission, which is being repurposed as the Restaurant Recovery Commission. The bill builds on the House’s general focus on restaurants and previous action to permit alcohol delivery with meals as well as its focus on restaurants as an anchor on main streets.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic small businesses across the Commonwealth have been hard hit as we continue to fight this virus. Our restaurants have taken the brunt of these measures,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “As we begin to reopen our economy, it is paramount that the Legislature ease the burden on businesses like our restaurants whatever way we can. The relief bill that the House unanimously passed will give restaurants further tools in the toolbox as they begin to reopen and in many cases, rebuild.”

The package:

•Streamlines the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) approval process for restaurants to establish outdoor seating by waiving the approval of these licenses. Instead, it only requires restaurants to notify and place on file with the ABCC their outdoor seating plan;

•Temporarily suspends some relevant local zoning laws on outdoor seating if cities and towns wish to do so;

•Waives interest and late penalties for restaurants on their meals tax payments until December 2020;

•Allows restaurants to include cocktails to-go with take-out food until February 2021;

•Caps commissions on on-line restaurant delivery at 15% across the board so that these apps can continue to operate without placing an undue burden on our restaurants.

The bill will now go to the Senate.

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