Bill extends outdoor seating, to-go drinks for restaurants, bars

Provisions to aid hospitality industry extended until March 2022
February 2, 2021

A bill to continue outdoor seating and alcoholic drinks to-go at restaurants and bars for another year passed the House Jan. 27 and is headed to the Senate.

Sponsored by House Speaker Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, House Bill 1 would permit bars and restaurants to continue the sale of to-go alcoholic beverages and use extended outdoor seating until March 2022. The bill, which passed by a vote of 40-0 with one absent, would extend the temporary provisions established last year that are currently set to expire at the end of March.

“Restaurants and bars have been among the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic. It’s only through their own ingenuity and creativity, and assistance we have been able to lend them that has kept many businesses afloat,” Schwartzkopf said. “The outdoor dining and to-go cocktails options have been extremely popular and have allowed restaurants and bars to serve patrons safely. These innovations are about to expire, but we are not on the other side of this crisis yet. This bill will give the hospitality industry another year of flexibility to keep their doors open.”

In 2019, restaurant and food industry jobs in Delaware totaled 50,800 but the state lost 66 percent of its food or drink establishment jobs between February and April 2020, making Delaware's deficit one of the highest in the nation, according to House Democratic Caucus statistics.

Food and drink establishments in Delaware lost more than $160 million in sales in April 2020 alone, according to House Democratic Caucus data, with the food service industry losing an estimated $700 million between March and July. Revenue from restaurant gross receipts last year dropped to less than half of 2019 receipts.

“The impact of this pandemic on Delaware’s restaurant industry is being felt by Delaware residents from Claymont to Delmar,” said Sen. Darius Brown, D-Wilmington, the Senate prime sponsor of HB1. “Our hospitality industry provides a stable source of income to single mothers, people working multiple jobs and Delawareans who might otherwise struggle to find employment elsewhere. These are the very people most at risk during this public health crisis. This legislation will hopefully help restaurants across our state keep workers on their payroll longer and add new jobs sooner as we begin to come out of this crisis.”

HB 1 is now in the Senate Banking, Business and Insurance Committee awaiting action.

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