Reps. Stanley and Lawn Help Pass Bill to Support Commonwealth’s Restaurants

Rep. Tom Stanley and Rep. John Lawn joined their 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 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.

“The economic upheaval created by the COVID-19 public health crisis has hurt our local businesses, especially our restaurants,” said Rep. Stanley. “This legislation will provide restaurants and municipalities tools for establishing outdoor seating while balancing public health concerns and local constituent input.”

“No corner of the small business sector has been more affected by the pandemic than our restaurants,” said Rep. Lawn. “The restaurant industry is one of Massachusetts’ largest employers, and this legislation will go a long way towards helping them endure the long-lasting effects of coronavirus, allowing them to continue to provide a much needed service to and jobs for our residents.”

“This bill will provide immediate assistance to our restaurants and I am hopeful the Senate and Governor see that and move quickly on this bill,” added Rep. Stanley.

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 2020;
• 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.