BOSTON – Representative Paul K. Frost (R-Auburn) announces the House of Representatives has approved House Bill 4767, An Act addressing challenges faced by food and beverage establishments resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, passed unanimously in a formal session held Wednesday June 3rd, 2020.
Also known as the “Restaurant Relief Act,” the bill allows restaurants to now offer mixed drinks with takeout food orders, as well as provide expanded outdoor table service with alcohol, subject to local approval. It also affords restaurants the ability to delay the filing of meals tax payments collected this year, along with putting a cap on the fees charged by third-party service companies delivering online food orders.
The legislation builds upon recent guidelines issued by Governor Baker for the Commonwealth’s “Phase 2 re-opening,” set to begin as early as June 8th. While indoor table service would still be prohibited, Phase 2 allows restaurants to begin to accommodate customers through an outdoor dining experience.
“I voted in favor of this bill to help as many restaurants as possible during these difficult times we face due the pandemic,” said Representative Frost. “The legislation aims to provide outside dining options, and the sale of more alcoholic beverages on-site and for take-out orders, in Phase 2 of Reopening Massachusetts. The bill also helps local communities expedite the process to allow for outdoor dining and alcohol service. Being outdoors lowers the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and this is one avenue where we can allow for restaurants to adapt to these times more safely.”
Local licensing authorities are granted some flexibility with bypassing the current review process of the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, giving cities and towns the option to temporarily approve requests for restaurants to sell alcohol in outdoor table service through November 30th. Mixed drinks purchased as part of online food orders are limited to no more than 64 fluid ounces per transaction, packaged in a manner that would make any break of the container’s seal apparent.
Restaurants can opt to delay meal tax payments for the remainder of the year without incurring any penalties or interest. Also addressed are concerns raised about fees charged by some third-party delivery services, effectively capping delivery fees at 15% and non-delivery fees at 5% of the online order purchase price until 45 days after the State of Emergency is lifted.
The bill now moves to the State Senate for their consideration.