Committee passes Sen. Luchini bill to continue help for restaurants, bars hurt by pandemic

Posted: February 17, 2021 | Senator Luchini, Veterans and Legal Affairs

AUGUSTA — On Wednesday, a bill sponsored by Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, to extend regulatory provisions put in place to help restaurants and bars continue to serve their customers safely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, was approved by the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. An amended version of LD 205, “An Act To Extend the Ability of Restaurants and Bars To Serve Alcohol To Go,” passed in committee 8-2, with three committee members absent.

Sen. Louis Luchini

“I’ve heard from so many small business owners that being able to sell drinks to-go has been vital to keeping their doors open and their staff employed. This is a common-sense provision that would be extended to allow Maine’s businesses to survive and recuperate from the pandemic,” said Sen. Luchini, who serves as senate chair of the VLA Committee. “I’m pleased by the committee vote and the good discussion we had around the provisions in this bill.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants and bars have been allowed to sell alcohol to customers through take-out and delivery service if the liquor is accompanied by a food order. As amended, LD 205 would extend this provision through Sept. 10, 2022, allowing restaurants and bars to sell pre-mixed to-go cocktails in tamper-evident containers. The bill also would permit licensed Maine distilleries and small distilleries that operate tasting rooms but that do not have on-premises retail establishments to sell spirits they produce through take-out and delivery service unaccompanied by a food order, also through Sept. 10, 2022. 

“In an earlier poll of Hospitality Maine members, 93 of 117 respondents said that they included beer and wine in the manufacturers original package as part of their takeout menu, a whopping 80%. And over 50% of those who responded used the cocktails to-go feature of this allowance,” Greg Dugal of Hospitality Maine said in testimony supporting the bill. “For this program to end abruptly as an executive order or state of emergency expires could be devastating to our industry. Regardless of the status of the virus, it will be years before restaurateurs get back to the levels of business they once had.”

The bill now faces votes in the state Senate and House. As emergency legislation, the bill would go into effect immediately upon becoming law.