BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The debate continues over whether to extend the "cocktails-to-go" provision first put in place by the Baker-Polito Administration during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cocktails-to-go, otherwise known as drinks-to-go, was initially a temporary rule that allows Massachusetts restaurants to sell limited amounts of alcohol with takeout meals. The measure was extended in 2021 and 2022, along with other pandemic-era provisions such as outdoor dining. It is set to expire on April 1.
Last week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a supplemental budget bill that would extend cocktails-to-go for another year. On Monday, the Senate's ways and means committee released its version of the supplemental budget that did not include cocktails-to-go. The provision was the subject of debate on the floor Thursday, but should the House and Senate not come to an agreement soon, the April 1 expiration date will pass.
Outside of the state legislature, lobbyists on both sides of the issue are weighing in.
The Massachusetts Restaurant Association is in favor of keeping drinks-to-go going. MRA President Steve Clark told WBZ NewsRadio Thursday that the provision has helped boost revenue for struggling restaurants by letting consumers enjoy the convenience of high quality drinks from home.
"Restaurant quality mai tais, sangrias, other types of cocktail beverages," Clark said. "People are saying 'Hey, you know what, this makes sense, I’d like to get that.'"
On the other side of the debate is the Massachusetts Package Store Association, which has fought hard against extending drinks-to-go. One of their major criticisms of the provision is that it allows third party delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash to deliver alcohol to customers without proper regulation, leading to abuse by underage drinkers because delivery drivers are not checking IDs.
"Right now they’re saying about 60% of underage drinking is coming from drinks-to-go, especially with third party delivery systems," Julio's Liquors owner Ryan Maloney said. "They are not licensed, no way to track them. [Drinks-to-go] just wasn’t written to be permanent."
Clark, however, said that there are zero instances of underage drinking through third party delivery.
"I think that’s an outlandish goose chase argument," Clark said.
WBZ's Kim Tunnicliffe (@KimWBZ) reports.