On Monday, restaurant and bar owners raised a toast at the news that Governor Charlie Baker had signed legislation allowing them to begin selling cocktails to-go as part of take-out food orders.
The legislation, created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will allow restaurants to sell mixed drinks in closed containers through the length of the state of emergency, or through February 28, 2021, whichever is later. Drinks can be as large as 64 ounces, and should be placed in the trunk of a vehicle if a person is picking up their order by car.
Earlier this year, beer and wine sales were permitted to be sold with take-out and delivery orders, but mixed drinks were excluded from those provisions. More than 34 states, including Maine and Rhode Island, have recently passed legislation allowing cocktails to be sold to-go. Industry experts say the cocktail sales will help provide another revenue lifeline for restaurants and bars struggling to survive the restrictions put in place due to the pandemic.
“While many mom and pop establishments have been able to slowly reopen in recent weeks, they still face significant challenges in their efforts to retain employees and pay their bills,” State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), one of the sponsors of the bill, said in a statement. “According to our local, family-owned and operated restaurants, these measures could help them generate thousands of dollars a month and would greatly assist them in paying utility bills and rent.”
Another benefit of the bill is that it allows restaurateurs to sell what they already have on hand, said Tony Maws, the chef-owner of Craigie on Main and one of the leaders of Mass Restaurants United, a group advocating for legislation supporting independent restaurants. “It’s not going to push anybody over the finish line, but we’ll take every little bit of help we can get,” he said. “It will certainly increase the overall checkout revenue. It’s also inventory that most of us restaurants and bars already own, and will help us move some product that we’re sitting on.”
He underscored that much more still needs to be done to help restaurants survive the crisis, and that this piece of legislation was originally tied to a bill that would reduce delivery fees by third-party vendors, and also extend the moratorium on evictions through the end of the year.
“This does not help the smaller mom and pops serving pizza and tacos that don’t have a liquor license,” Maws said. “We’re thankful for the work that’s been done, but there’s still big push to say this other stuff has to happen.”