It’s still an uphill battle for establishments, but the extensions should prove helpful
On April 1, Mass Gov. Charlie Baker tweeted, “Today, I will be signing legislation that will extend rules that make it easier for cities and towns to allow restaurants to offer outdoor dining. We appreciate the Legislature sending us this provision last night.”
It’s all part of a massive $1.6 billion supplemental budget, and will extend deadlines related to outdoor dining rules that were put in place during the pandemic and were set to expire.
As the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s senior legislative analyst explains, “most of the spending bill is dedicated to COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery efforts, including expanded testing, vaccination sites and workforce development.” But there’s also lots in there that’s helpful to restaurants.
“Under an executive order issued in 2020, municipalities were permitted to use an expedited process to approve temporary permits for new or expanded outdoor dining and alcohol service. The rules have since been extended by legislation. The Legislature’s bill would extend the rules through April 1, 2023. The bill would also extend, through April 1, 2023, an emergency provision allowing restaurants to sell beer, wine and cocktails to go. That provision was due to expire on May 1.”
Last July, Dig contributor Eric Twardzik covered the fight for to-go cocktails, reporting from an event at the Quiet Few in East Boston where hospitality industry advocates gathered to bolster the program. Speaking to the crowd, State Sen. Diana DiZoglio, who filed the bill that first allowed for takeout cocktails in 2020, noted the “lobbyists who are paid exorbitant amounts of money to protect the interests of those who already have a monopoly on [the alcohol] industry,” and said, “They do not have the best interests of our small mom and pop shops, our friends, our bartenders, our servers in mind and they are spending a lot of money right now to stop these proposals from moving forward.”
DiZoglio implored the crowd, “Call your legislator. Call your senator. Call your chambers of commerce, let them know that you want your chambers to support this and write a letter to their legislators to tell them that they should be supporting this. Because we have very limited time. In May, this expires forever. It’s very unlikely they’ll do another extension. So, we need to pass this and make it permanent.”
It’s not quite the worst-case scenario that the senator and some advocates expected; still, the struggle for this added source of revenue continues.