AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills signed an executive order at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that granted bars and restaurants the ability to sell alcohol to-go in an effort to help businesses. A bill introduced Friday would extend the measure through April 2022.
“An Act to Extend the Ability of Restaurants and Bars to Serve Alcohol To Go” was introduced by State Sen. Louie Luchini (D-Ellsworth) on Friday—on the same day, the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee voted unanimously in support of the bill.
“The hospitality industry is a huge part of our economy here in Hancock County and across Maine, and it’s been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Luchini said. “Over the past four months, bars and restaurants have adapted to safely meet the challenges of the moment, and the ability to sell alcohol to-go has helped many restaurants continue to serve their customers and keep employees working. It’s important that we continue to give our small businesses the tools they need to survive these difficult times.”
The Senate Majority Office says extending this ability through April 2022 will ensure that restaurants and bars don’t lose a second summer season, should the pandemic continue to hamper business.
“By establishing this privilege in statute, the Legislature will be able to provide restaurants with greater certainty in planning their business models amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic.”
Greg Dugal of Hospitality Maine submitted testimony in support of the bill: “I met with a restaurateur on York Beach around the Memorial Day holiday who told me that cocktails to go saved his restaurant. Before adding this component to his menu he was sinking. Cocktails to go increased his business by double and put him at 50 percent of his original sales, thereby allowing him to survive and operate through this summer season.”
Dugal said beer and wine and cocktails to go may be the difference between success and failure for small businesses during this pandemic.
The bill is slated to go to the Maine Senate and House for votes, pending the Legislature reconvening to a special session later this year.