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New Hampshire Restaurants Can Temporarily Sell Beer and Wine With Takeout Orders

Will Massachusetts allow its restaurants to do the same?

Stock image of a hand giving a wine bottle to another hand, all isolated on a white background gosphotodesign/Shutterstock

New Hampshire is now allowing its restaurants to sell beer and wine with takeout and delivery orders. Like Massachusetts, New Hampshire has temporarily prohibited restaurants from offering dine-in service, limiting them to takeout, delivery, and drive-through until April 7, in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19. (The Massachusetts regulations will last until at least April 6.) Massachusetts, however, is not currently allowing restaurants to sell alcohol with takeout and delivery orders.

In New Hampshire, the temporary authorization applies to any establishment (restaurants, diners, bars, etc.) that already has a restaurant license and a license for on-premise alcohol consumption. Only beer or wine are covered under the new rule; not hard liquor or mixed drinks.

As one restaurant owner told New Hampshire newspaper Foster’s, it’s a nice gesture from Gov. Chris Sununu, but a more substantial measure like excusing meals taxes would go a lot further towards easing restaurants’ financial burdens. The hope for meals tax postponement or cancellation is a hot topic among Massachusetts restaurant owners, too, and emergency regulations are being finalized this week to allow some small businesses to defer the meals tax for several months.

While Massachusetts is not currently allowing the sale of alcohol with restaurant takeout and delivery orders, some business owners and lawmakers would like to see that changed to help struggling restaurants bring in a little bit more money during these difficult times.

Massachusetts State Sen. Diana DiZoglio reportedly sent Gov. Charlie Baker a letter earlier this week, signed by heads of various chambers of commerce and business groups, asking him to follow the lead of New York, which announced new rules March 17.

New York is temporarily allowing restaurants to serve whatever alcohol their existing license allows, as long as food is included in the order and the alcohol is served in containers that don’t violate open-container laws.

Massachusetts is a traditionally strict state when it comes to liquor laws: “Happy hour” drinking specials have long been prohibited, and it was only a decade ago that restaurants could serve alcohol starting at 10 a.m. instead of noon on Sundays. But these are unusual times, and new regulations and exceptions are being made every day as the novel coronavirus continues to spread. Time will tell if Massachusetts will give restaurants — which need all the help they can get right now — one small bit of help in the form of takeout alcohol sales.

Sununu: Restaurants Can Offer Beer and Wine With Take-Out Orders [Foster’s]
MA Coronavirus: State May Let Restaurants Sell Takeout Liquor [Salem Patch]
How the Novel Coronavirus Is Impacting Restaurants in Greater Boston [EBOS]