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Baker signs bill extending pandemic-era policies, including to-go cocktails, expanded outdoor dining

Governor Charlie Baker.Matt Stone/Associated Press

Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday signed legislation that will allow restaurants to sell to-go cocktails until next May, extend certain protections around evictions, and keep in place a series of pandemic-era rules that had expired, or were slated to, with the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency.

The Legislature scrambled to pass a compromise version of the bill roughly 20 hours after Massachusetts’s emergency lifted just after midnight Tuesday, allowing some rules to lapse.

Senate president Karen E. Spilka wrote on Twitter that Baker had signed the bill Wednesday morning. A spokesman for the governor later confirmed Baker had approved the bill shortly after 9 a.m.


The 14-page law allows restaurants to sell to-go beer, wine, and cocktails through May 1, 2022, and requires they be sold at the same prices as those consumed on-site. It provides another boost for restaurants by extending the time towns and cities could allow for expanded outdoor dining at restaurants — which had been slated to end in mid-August — until April 1, 2022.

It also allows town councils, state boards, and other bodies to continue to hold remote public meetings, which many have continued to do as millions of people have become vaccinated, until April 1, 2022. Town meetings can be held remotely until Dec. 15, 2021.

The law also temporarily keeps in place measures designed to protect renters. One provision, now extended until April 2022, requires that courts delay evictions for people who couldn’t pay their rent because of COVID-19-related financial hardship and have a pending application for rental assistance.

The 33-hour gap between the end of the state of emergency and when Baker signed the bill nevertheless caused consternation among business owners and local officials, many of whom were left wondering Tuesday what would ultimately survive legislative negotiations.


Still, the bill lawmakers produced, and Baker signed, doesn’t address everything the House and Senate have debated in recent days.

For example, the House moved to allow 15 percent caps on meal delivery commissions for the likes of Grubhub and DoorDash to continue until the end of the year, while the Senate chose last week to let those caps expire. And the Senate adopted rules that would continue certain telehealth reimbursements at a higher level through Dec. 15, while the House bill as of Monday left that out.

Neither of the measures are included in the bill that became law Wednesday, though legislative leaders indicated they are still negotiating several measures. It’s unclear whether or when another agreement could emerge.

Lawmakers also tabled a Senate measure that would have allowed any eligible voter to cast an early mail-in ballots for a state or local election until mid-December. The House last week passed a separate provision that would make the option permanent in state primaries, general elections, and some municipal races. The Senate has yet to act on the proposal, which is included in a wider supplemental spending bill.

“These temporary provisions have been helpful to businesses, municipalities, health care providers, residents and communities during this extraordinary time,” House and Senate leaders said in a joint statement Tuesday night. “We will continue working together to resolve items in the near-term that were not included in today’s Conference report, which deserve further consideration.”

Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misstated who qualifies for eviction protection in a new law. It requires that courts delay evictions for people who couldn’t pay their rent because of COVID-19-related financial hardship and have a pending application for rental assistance. The Globe regrets the error.


Matt Stout can be reached at Follow him @mattpstout.