On Friday, July 10, 2020, the Massachusetts State Senate passed bipartisan legislation that gives restaurants more flexibility, and customers more choice, while the Commonwealth continues to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill, An Act to Expand Take-out/Delivery Options in Response to COVID-19, would allow restaurants to include mixed drinks with take-out and delivery orders. Restaurants were previously authorized by the legislature to sell beer and wine with take-out orders. The bill would authorize restaurants to serve mixed-drinks to-go until the Massachusetts' state of emergency in response to COVID-19, declared by the Governor on March 10, 2020 is lifted.
"The Senate has stood by our small business owners throughout this pandemic, and today's bill provides yet another tool to help the restaurant industry get back on their feet," stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "While the work to support our small businesses impacted by COVID-19 continues, I am proud to see this measure advance today. I want to thank Senators Diana DiZoglio, Michael Rodrigues and Joe Boncore for their advocacy and collaboration on this issue."
"The Senate's passage of this bill provides critical relief to struggling restaurants as they work to recover and remain viable in the face of economic hardship," said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D - Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "Restaurants have been among the hardest-hit industries during the COVID-10 pandemic, and I am glad - thanks to the leadership of the Senate President, and the advocacy of Senator DiZoglio and others - we are able to provide restaurants with this economic lifeline during this challenging time."
"Since the start of the COVID-19 emergency, I have heard from our local restaurant owners about the revenue that to-go mixed drinks could generate to help them stay afloat and survive the impacts of the shutdown," said State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen). "While many mom and pop establishments have been able to slowly reopen in recent weeks, they still face significant challenges in their efforts to retain employees and pay their bills. While the legislature does not have a say in the reopening plan during this continued state of emergency, we still have an obligation to use every legislative tool we have to help those that are struggling due to the pandemic. The passage of this bill will greatly help our job creators in the restaurant community, as well as their employees, many of whom have faced challenges with unemployment and uncertainty over whether their jobs will be there for them in the future. I am grateful to my colleagues in the legislature for their support and continued advocacy on the issue. I hope this bill will be signed into law by the Governor as soon as possible."
"Restaurants and bars are woven into the cultural and economic fabric of our communities," said State Senator Joe Boncore (D-Winthrop). "Allowing for cocktail sales to go will certainly aid in the economic recovery of the unique local and small businesses that make up the restaurant industry in my district, and across the Commonwealth."
Under the bill, restaurants would still be required to verify that customers are 21 or older and mixed drinks must be sold in sealed containers. The legislation requires that mixed drinks be sold exclusively with food, limited to two mixed drinks per entrée, and not more than 64 ounces in total.
The bill is the latest in a series of far-reaching actions by the Senate meant to support small businesses during the COVID-19 public health crisis. The bill now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.