MASSACHUSETTS – Restaurants are urging state lawmakers to expand rules aimed at propping up their businesses during the coronavirus emergency, including rules allowing them to sell take-away cocktails and fees from third-party suppliers like DoorDash and Uber Eats to limit charging.
However, these rules will expire if the state lifts its emergency order on June 15. Senator Diana DiZoglio, a Democrat from Methuen, has submitted bills that would extend this regulation by two years after the end of the emergency order. The bills were tabled as changes to the state budget that will not be finally passed on to Governor Charlie Baker until the emergency order is lifted.
After Baker announced the schedule for ending his March 2020 emergency order on Monday, DiZoglio wrote to Senate President Karen E. Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano calling for immediate action on the bills.
“These actions were critical to helping our small businesses stay afloat in the face of the pandemic – and staying just as important to them now on the path to recovery,” DiZoglio said. “It is imperative that we get this legislation over the finish line as soon as possible and ensure that our local restaurants do not lose access to these critical, revenue-generating opportunities that can make the difference to their survival.”
Restaurants, as well as the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, praised Baker’s decision to lift COVID-19 restrictions, including capacity restrictions, on May 29. But restaurants are still struggling, the club said. The association estimates 3,400 restaurants have closed since the pandemic began and the industry lost $ 7 billion in revenue over the past year.
“The state of emergency is linked to public health data, not economic recovery data,” said Steve Clark, an association spokesman. “Hospitality employment is still 1.7 million jobs lower than before the pandemic, food costs are skyrocketing and other operating costs such as labor, gas prices, utilities and insurance are extremely high. Hospitality is on the verge of a long recovery Industry.”
At the same time, the Massachusetts Package Stores Association demands that the rules expire with the emergency order. The state’s Association of Liquor Stores says the take-away cocktails hurt their members’ stores.
“They knew what they were getting into when they stepped into the business,” Robert A. Mellion, executive director of the association, told the Boston Globe.