BOSTON – Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the House this week to pass legislation to provide more tools to the restaurants of Massachusetts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation entitled An act addressing challenges faced by food and beverage establishments resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic (H.4767) aims to assist a sector that has been hit hard 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 by 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. 

“The restaurant industry has been hit hard by the pandemic,” said Representative Meschino. “The House put together a bill with innovative measures to alleviate some of the economic strain on our local establishments, while keeping health and safety measures at the forefront of the state’s response.”

The legislation:

  • Streamlines the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) approval process for outdoor seating by replacing the formal approval process with the requirement for restaurants to notify ABCC of the change and to place on file with the ABCC the outdoor seating plan;
  • Provides a municipality with a temporary option to suspend 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 sell “cocktails to-go” with take-out food until February 2021; and,
  • Caps commissions for on-line restaurant delivery services at 15%. 

The bill will now go to the Senate.