Mass Senate Passes Bill To Amend Alcohol Licenses For Outdoor Dining During Pandemic

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The following is a press release from Senate President Karen Spilka’s office.

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BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation to further allow communities and restaurants flexibility during the public health crisis, on Monday, July 20.

The bill, An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Restaurants and other Establishments due to COVID-19, ensures local municipalities maintain flexibility in authorizing restaurants to provide food and alcohol service in expanded outdoor spaces during the COVID-19 emergency through November 1, 2020. This flexibility is currently provided through an executive order issued by the Governor and passage of this law will ensure this practice continues.

“The Senate will remain focused on helping our restaurants and small businesses by lifting barriers as we move forward in this unprecedented public health crisis,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This bill will help give our restaurant industry another option as they safely welcome their customers back and recuperate from challenges posed by COVID-19.”

The bill now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration

“This bill will allow restaurants to promote social distancing practices, safely serve more customers and maximize their revenue during perhaps the most challenging economic time in memory for the industry,” said Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I applaud Senator Feeney for his leadership in advocating Senate passage of this bill and for his ongoing efforts to urgently address challenges faced by restaurants during this public health crisis.”

“The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting mitigation efforts have dramatically affected many industries throughout the Commonwealth. The restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit, said Senator Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. “From local entrepreneurs and chefs, to wait staff, bartenders and other employees, the effect on working people has been significant. We have tried to identify ways in the Senate, working with our local restaurant owners, to mitigate some of the hardships that this industry is facing. It was clear to me that we could take this simple step to cut the bureaucracy involved in serving alcohol on a patio or sidewalk outside the restaurant and offer diners a safer experience as they return to dining out. This is a simple, effective and common-sense move that has been embraced by restaurant owners and municipalities, while keeping workers and diners as safe as possible.”

“Massachusetts has more than 16,000 restaurants that employ thousands of people and serve millions of meals, and their survival is threatened by the measures necessary to protect public health due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With projections that as many as 1 in 5 of these businesses may not ever reopen, we must find and provide practical measures that help them through this difficult time,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R -Gloucester). “This legislation will help them capitalize on a desperately needed revenue opportunity with a simple but powerful change in regulatory requirements.”

The legislation is the latest in a series of bills supported by the Senate during the Coronavirus Pandemic which aim to support businesses while social distancing remains encouraged.

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