The Fine Line Between On & Off Premise

Over the last year, a bill was passed around the greater Massachusetts area, allowing restaurants to offer beer, wine, and cocktails to go.

Flashforward to June 2021, and the debate continues whether or not the emergency provision should continue. This month, lawmakers confirmed restaurants’ and bars’ continued ability to sell cocktails to go through until May 2022. While getting booze at just any store may not be an option, any restaurants are!

“DiZoglio, a Methuen Democrat who has pushed for the takeout drinks measures as a way to help restaurants recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and associated shutdowns, filed a bill (S 196) that would extend the authorization for to-go beer, wine and mixed drink sales until June 15, 2023 — two years beyond the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Another bill (S 247), filed by Sen. John Velis, would permanently allow establishments with liquor licenses to sell beer and wine to-go.”

While this news is crucial for restaurants in order to stay afloat, it closely threatens the laws around alcohol consumption.

As Robert Mellion of MassPack put it: there are consequences when it comes to enabling serving alcohol off the premises. Not only that, but it is pinning on and off premise sales against one another, leading to vertical integration. Understandably, allowing consumers to carry premade cocktails out of an eating establishment does pose as an issue, but does it raise the likelihood of a customer choosing to crack open a tall boy upon leaving a liquor store? While laws do prohibit this, the same goes for restaurant-goers.

On the opposing side, Diana DiZoglio says, “the only other person to testify on to-go drinks legislation, pushed back against Mellion’s testimony, calling it “disgraceful” to “shift the blame for substance use disorder” onto restaurants.”

“I think if the gentleman before me has some challenges with alcohol being used in the commonwealth at all, and he’s serious about that, he probably wouldn’t be representing the package store industry and trying to monopolize the sale of alcohol in the commonwealth,” she said.

DiZoglio encourages engagement amongst local restaurants to demonstrate the significant role this law plays in enabling their business. She highlights, “how important this is and how much revenue it can generate, how much it’s been helping them, and how much residents actually are enjoying this new addition to our restaurant community.”

Balancing the scales between on and off premise is not an easy task: a steady give and take when it comes to law and supply, versus monetization and demand.

Although DiZoglio intends to see this become permanent where the scales will require more permanent stability, the initial reasoning behind this law was to stabilize these businesses’ operations and keep them running. There is no competition between on and off premise if one of them is nonexistent.

Most importantly, “[These restaurants] have been telling us how much of a tremendous impact this has had on them,” she said. “They have told us that they’ve been able to keep employees on the payroll, keep their lights on, pay their rent, pay their back rent.”

Priority lies among the on and off premise laws, keeping citizens safe while keeping businesses running.


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