Recently, State Representative David Biele joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass legislation that provides more tools to help restaurants weather the economic crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation 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.

“Restaurants and small businesses are important parts of our community and local economies.  The restaurant industry is one the largest employers in the Commonwealth and also one the industries hardest hit by COVID-19,” said Rep. Biele.  “This legislative package will provide much-need support to restaurants as they reopen and rebuild from COVID-19, provide economic relief for small business owners and help preserve jobs.”

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.

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 bill will now go to the Senate.