BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation Wednesday extending measures that will continue to help businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including allowing for the sale of to-go cocktails by Massachusetts restaurants until next year.
Many of the state's pandemic relief provisions expired Tuesday at midnight. The House and Senate hammered out a compromise bill that was sent to Baker on Tuesday night and signed by him Wednesday around noon.
The bill would permit to-go beer, wine and cocktail sales by restaurants through May 1, 2022. It includes House language requiring that takeout and delivery drinks be sold at the same prices as those consumed on site.
The bill also allows remote meetings of all public bodies such as City Councils, School Committees and Select Boards until April 20, 2022. It further allows for remote meetings of nonprofits, notary services and reverse-mortgage loan counseling, along with eviction protections, flexibilities for assisted living residences, and the ability for medical assistants, podiatrists, phlebotomists and certain military personnel to administer COVID-19 vaccines.
Special permits for expanded outdoor dining, which would otherwise expire in 60 days, are valid until April 21, 2022 under the bill.
Methuen Democratic Sen. Diana DiZoglio, who pushed for continued relief for the restaurant industry, including continuing the practice of selling to-go cocktails, called the approval of the bill a "great step in the right direction."
"By working overtime we were able to beat back the powerful lobbyists trying to block these provisions," she said.
In late May, DiZoglio testified on the floor of the Senate that lobbyists working for the package store industry were trying to block the extension of the to-go drinks legislation because they feared the competition from restaurants.
"The lobbyists have been hard at work," she told her colleagues in May. "Namely, it's the package store lobbyists ... suggesting that this provision that allows a couple of mixed drinks to be sold to add to the bottom line of a restaurant is causing massive destruction in the package store industry."
In a Wednesday statement DiZoglio said, "The fight is not over. This is one significant victory but there will be a long battle ahead to ensure these common-sense provisions become permanent. Restaurants, their employees and customers need to bang the drum even louder over the course of the next several months to help us see this through until the end."
One provision DiZoglio pushed for remains in a conference committee, and that is a rule that would put a cap on the fees delivery companies such as UberEats can charge restaurants.
Senate President Karen Spilka, House Speaker Ronald Mariano, Ways and Means Chair Sen. Michael Rodrigues and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz said in a joint statement that they would "continue working together to resolve items in the near-term that were not included in today's Conference report, which deserve further consideration."
Material from State House News Service was used in this story.