New law lets restaurants sell cocktails to go

Delivery fee cap dropped from final bill

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER on Monday signed a bill that will let restaurants sell alcoholic mixed drinks along with a takeout food order. Under the law, a customer over 21 can purchase up to 64 ounces of mixed drinks per transaction. The drink will be sold in a sealed container.

The law will apply until Feb. 28, 2021, or the end of the coronavirus state of emergency, whichever is later.

Bob Luz, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, called the ability to offer to-go cocktails another small bit of help for a devastated restaurant industry. “It is not a silver bullet, rather a ray of hope for the operators,” Luz said.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council, 30 other states and Washington, DC allow restaurants to offer cocktails to-go.

But the final bill that emerged from the Legislature excluded a controversial provision that the House had included in an earlier version, which would have capped the fees that delivery services can charge to restaurants during the pandemic at 15 percent.

Restaurants had said they were losing money on delivery orders, since the apps that market and deliver the food were charging commissions of up to 30 percent.

The delivery services lobbied strongly against the cap, questioning its legality and arguing that it would require them to pay deliverers less, charge customers more, or cut the services they provide.

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Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Some cities and towns have been considering imposing their own caps, but the decision to leave the cap out of the final restaurant bill means no statewide cap will be imposed.

Luz said the delivery fee issue remains important, since outdoor dining will evaporate as an option when the weather turns cold this fall, and delivery will likely continue to be a significant portion of restaurant sales. Without a cap on these fees, Luz said more restaurants will be unable to survive the coronavirus pandemic.