To-go cocktail sales and caps on fees charged by third-party delivery services have helped restaurants keep the lights on while their operations have been limited during the COVID-19 crisis, restaurant owners said Monday as they made the case for extending those temporary measures beyond the current state of emergency.
To buoy restaurants that first were limited to takeout only and then faced capacity restrictions and distancing requirements that limited how many patrons they could serve, lawmakers authorized the sale of beer, wine and cocktails with to-go food orders and capped the fees restaurants pay delivery apps like Grubhub and DoorDash at 15%. Both of those provisions are linked to the length of the state of emergency, which is now scheduled to end on June 15.
"Small businesses, restaurants, bars and others are operating on these very slim margins, and having their top line impacted in a way that renders them unprofitable right away," said Jackson Cannon, the bar director for the now-closed Kenmore Square bars and restaurants Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar and The Hawthorne. "Any of these incremental helps, especially cocktails to-go and the cap on fees, these need to be of a duration long enough to help us climb out of this and hopefully protect as many of the businesses as we can."
Sen. Diana DiZoglio filed bills (SD 2556, S 196) that would extend the delivery-fee cap and the takeout drinks authorization for two years beyond the end of the state of emergency, and has offered amendments to the Senate budget, which is teed up for debate next week, that would do the same.
"Our local restaurants are depending on us to take immediate action as they work to remain afloat in this unprecedented time," the Methuen Democrat said during a Zoom rally.