Legislature sends Sen. Luchini’s restaurant relief package to Governor
AUGUSTA — On Friday, several bills sponsored by Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, to support restaurants, bars and distilleries that have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic were enacted by the Maine Senate. LD 205, “An Act To Extend the Ability of Restaurants and Bars To Serve Alcohol To Go,” and LD 307, “An Act To Expand the Market for Maine Liquor Manufacturers,” received unanimous approval in the Senate on enactment votes. LD 378, “An Act To Temporarily Waive Renewal Fees for On-premises Retail Liquor Licenses,” received unanimous support before being sent to the Special Appropriations Table.
“Maine’s food and beverage businesses are a big part of what draws people to our state every year. These businesses have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, even as they worked hard to adjust how they operate in order to keep their doors open, their workers on payroll and their customers safe,” said Sen. Luchini. “It only makes sense to me that we offer them a bit of relief. I’m grateful my colleagues in the Legislature agree with me so strongly.”
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. LD 205 extends this provision through April 15, 2022. The bill also temporarily permits licensed Maine distilleries and small distilleries that operate tasting rooms but that do not operate licensed on-premises retail establishments to sell spirits through take-out and delivery service unaccompanied by a food order.
Current law allows Maine alcohol manufacturers to sell to out-of-state distributors but limits direct sales to out-of-state consumers to wine only. LD 307 would allow Maine manufacturers of all types of alcohol to sell directly to out-of-state consumers if the consumer’s state of residence permits it. As amended, LD 307 also clarifies that alcohol purchased by out-of-state distributors is not subject to Maine excise tax. Out-of-state consumers who purchase alcohol directly from Maine manufacturers also would not be subjected to Maine spirit tax under the provisions of LD 307.
As amended, LD 378 would temporarily exempt restaurants and other entities seeking renewal of a license to sell beer, wine or spirits for on-premises consumption from any license renewal fee in 2021, if the license to be renewed expires during the year following the effective date of the bill.
The bills now go to Gov. Janet Mills, who has 10 days to sign the bills into law, veto them or allow them to become law without her signature. As emergency measures, LD 378 and LD 205 would take effect immediately upon becoming law. LD 307 would take effect April 1, 2021.