Health

MA lawmakers working to keep outdoor dining after state of emergency ends

SALEM, Mass. — Massachusetts lawmakers are working to make pandemic protections permanent before they expire when the state of emergency is lifted. Expanded outdoor dining is one of the big ones for restaurants.

Last year, restaurants scrambled to put in outdoor dining so they could seat more customers. This year, there is another scramble happening: to try to keep it after the governor lifts the emergency order.

Sixty days after the governor lifts the emergency order on June 15 for COVID, the permit for outdoor dining will get more complicated again. Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll is lobbying the state to make it more permanent.

“We would like a little bit more time. Obviously, October and Halloween are an important time. We’re hoping the legislature and the governor can come together on a bill to extend beyond the August timeline,” Mayor Driscoll said.

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Alcohol-to-go and some other restaurant assistance put into place under the state’s emergency orders will also be suspended unless the state legislature makes it permanent. Massachusetts Restaurant Association President & CEO Bob Luz said they too are working to keep what worked permanent.

“We need to work collaboratively to make sure we don’t leave these guys in a lurch as a result of the expedited order from the governor,” Luz said.

There are legislative bills in the works, but restaurants just hope the transition out of the pandemic is not as difficult as it was going into it. Carey said he sees outdoor dining as a benefit to the entire community.

“If you look at the downtowns, it’s added a lot of life, and it is much more attractive,” Luz said.

The legislature has asked the governor for a full list of the things that will be lifted after the emergency order goes away so they can act before that mid-June deadline.

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