AUGUSTA – The Legislature’s Veteran and Legal Affairs Committee unanimously approved a bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and Sen. Louie Luchini, D-Ellsworth, to support small businesses in the food and beverage industry on Wednesday.
LD 306, “An Act To Temporarily Waive Certain Requirements for Relicensing for Restaurants That Serve Liquor” is a temporary measure that would make it easier for restaurants and other small businesses that serve beer, wine or spirits to apply for or renew their restaurant license in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In Maine, this pandemic has proven what we already knew: Mainers are resilient people with a work ethic that is simply unmatched. All you have to do is take a look at how our small business owners have responded in the face of extraordinary challenges. So when First Mile Brewing reached out about this commonsense reform, I was thrilled to partner with them on a measure that could help restaurants and brewpubs all across the state,” said President Jackson. “As we look to the future and work to revitalize our economy, we must work with small businesses to make it easier for them to keep their doors open and rebound. I’m grateful for the committee’s support and looking forward to sending this bill to the governor’s desk.”
“It’s no secret that small businesses in the restaurant industry have been particularly challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, both through the health and safety limitations on indoor dining and the lack of tourists,” said Sen. Luchini, who serves as Senate Chair of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. “These are simple steps to boost an industry that has managed to make ends meet while scaling back their business for the better part of a year. I’m glad that the committee could take quick and decisive action on these important bills.”
An amended version of the bill would temporarily waive the requirement that 10 percent of all sales must be in food for the renewal of licenses that expire before Jan. 1, 2022. The measure would be retroactive.
To obtain a restaurant license under current law, an establishment must have food available for sale (not including prepackaged snack foods), food must make up at least 10 percent of all sales, the on-hand inventory of food must equal $2 per seat in the establishment.
The committee also approved a similar bill, LD 378, “An Act To Temporarily Waive Renewal Fees for On-premises Retail Liquor Licenses,” which would temporarily waive the fees for restaurants and other entities seeking renewal of a license to sell beer, wine or spirits for on-premises consumption for a year following the effective date of the bill. The committee is still finalizing the amended language.
Both bills will now go before the Senate and House for additional votes in the coming weeks.