Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito introduced a bill on March 24 that would allow bars and restaurants to sell beer and wine with delivery and takeout orders during the ongoing shutdown of dine-in service caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Some businesses have (sort of) preempted the state’s decision by delivering customers booze-free cocktail kits. Now, Massachusetts residents are on the precipice of being able to order drinks with actual alcohol for delivery or takeout.
When the state prohibited all dine-in bar and restaurant business in an effort to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 spread, the initial directive, which was effective March 17, didn’t allow for beer and wine sales. In the days since Baker’s initial announcement, the chorus of restaurant owners, customers, and lawmakers in favor of delivery and takeout beer and wine sales has grown and appears to have been effective.
The text of the bill states:
Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, during the state of emergency declared by the Governor on March 10, 2020 as a result of the outbreak of the 2019 novel Coronavirus also known as “COVID-19”, an establishment licensed to sell alcoholic beverages or only wines and malt beverages on-premises may sell wine or malt beverage only for off-premises consumption subject to the following conditions: (i) the wine or malt beverage must be sold in its original, sealed container; (ii) the wine or malt beverage must be sold as part of the same transaction as the purchase of food; and (iii) a customer is limited to 192 ounces of malt beverage and 1.5 liters of wine per transaction.
The plain English version: If the bill passes, folks will be able to buy up to 16 12-ounce beers and up to two standard-sized bottles of wine with delivery and takeout orders. Although all of the beer currently sitting in the keg rooms of Massachusetts bars and restaurants will probably go to waste — unless the state decides bars and restaurants can deliver beer from kegs in growlers — the bill is still a sensible step toward helping to mitigate economic anxiety for restaurants while also providing a public service.
If the state legislature passes the bill, Massachusetts will join New Hampshire, New York, and others in temporarily allowing delivery and takeout alcohol sales. (In addition to New Hampshire, the rest of the New England states — except for Maine — have also passed similar measures.)
Baker issued a stay-at-home advisory on March 23, closing all non-essential businesses and urging people to stay at home as much as possible to avoid unnecessary interactions. While liquor stores were deemed essential, not everyone will want to — or be able to — leave the house for a six-pack. And while alcohol delivery isn’t exactly a new thing — some breweries offer delivery services, as do companies like Drizly — this bill would make ordering takeout or delivery a one-stop shop.
Update, April 3: Baker has signed the bill. The headline has been updated accordingly.
• Coronavirus in Massachusetts: Bars and Restaurants Would Be Allowed to Sell Wine and Beer with Food Delivery Under Baker Administration’s Bill [ML]
• These Boston-Area Restaurants Are Delivering (Booze-Free) Cocktail Kits [EBOS]
• All Massachusetts Restaurants and Bars Will Shut Down for Three Weeks, Except for Takeout and Delivery [EBOS]
• New Hampshire Restaurants Can Temporarily Sell Beer and Wine With Takeout Orders [EBOS]
• Where to Get Cocktails for Delivery in NYC Right Now [ENY]
• Restaurant Delivery and Takeout Can Continue Through Massachusetts Stay-at-Home Advisory [EBOS]