Pandemic policy extensions signed into law

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday morning signed into law a bill extending pandemic-inspired authorizations for remote public meetings, to-go cocktail sales, eviction protections and more, according to Senate President Karen Spilka.

“Thank you @MassGovernor for signing this bill into law this morning!” Spilka tweeted at 10:14 a.m., about 13 hours after the Legislature sent Baker a partial compromise temporarily reinstating some policies that lapsed with Tuesday’s lift of the state of emergency and preventing others from expiring.

House and Senate lawmakers say they plan to keep negotiating on some of the COVID-19 policy measures.

The bill they passed Tuesday evening, which represents areas of common ground between the two branches, would extend the eviction protections and permission for virtual public meetings through April 1, 2022, and keep special permits for expanded outdoor dining in place through that same date.

It also allows restaurants to sell beer, wine and cocktails to-go until May 1, and temporarily extends the authorization for representative town meetings, notary services and reverse-mortgage loan counseling to occur remotely.

“These temporary provisions have been helpful to businesses, municipalities, health care providers, residents and communities during this extraordinary time,” Spilka, House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Ways and Means chairs Sen. Michael Rodrigues and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz said in a statement Tuesday night.

Lots of people were excited to hear outdoor dining is here to stay until at least next April.

“We love having the option of having this last even longer, it’s been great for the neighborhood, it’s wonderful to see people coming out again,” said Elisa Sweig, who lives in Back Bay.

Along with keeping that outdoor dining, restaurants can now continue to offer alcohol to go until May 1, 2022. Gov. Baker signed both of these pandemic policy extensions into law Wednesday.

Sweig said she was thrilled to hear they can still get cocktails to go for another year.

“We just pick up stuff [and] bring it home, and it was awesome; we didn’t have to worry about getting a cool drink,” Sweig said.

Those drinks to go are a good boost to business, according to Bob Luz, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.

“There’s a nicer markup on adult spirits, and so that’s why it’s important from a restaurant perspective to be able to get that little extra sale,” Luz said.

He said those extra sales, along with that outdoor seating, is just another way to help the many restaurant owners make back some of the significant losses over the last year.

“The public health emergency may be over, the economic emergency is not over for restaurants,” Luz said.

Luz said a lot of restaurant owners are hoping now that they can keep these set-ups for another year. It may be easier to find a more permanent solution to keep these permits for the long term.

Before the bill was passed Tuesday, Baker described the extensions as “a very-much-on-the-minds-of-everybody priority.”