Restaurant Recovery Update Jan 6, 2021

January 6, 2021
Massachusetts Restaurant Association

Massachusetts Legislature passes a number of issues that will help restaurants
During a frenetic last day of the legislative session, the legislature passed a number of issues that the MRA and the broader restaurant community has been advocating for months. The following issues were sent to the Governor's office at 4:30 this morning for his review. The Gov has 10 days to review and sign these bills into law. 
3rd party delivery fees capped at 15% throughout the pandemic
Even before the pandemic, third party delivery companies were a source of frustration for many in our industry, with certain delivery platforms charging up to 30% commission on individual orders. As the pandemic has stretched on, delivery and take out will continue to be a vital part of the business model.
Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, no third-party delivery service company, from the effective date of this act until the termination of the COVID-19 emergency, shall charge a covered establishment a delivery fee per online order for the use of its services and fees other than a delivery fee that totals more than 15 per cent of the purchase price of the online order. No third-party delivery service company shall reduce the compensation rates paid to the delivery service driver, or garnish gratuities, as a result of this section. 
$20 million dedicated grant fund for restaurants
With most operators reporting only a fraction of normal revenues, costs have only risen, and other operating expenses continue to mount. This dedicated relief fund, in addition to the ongoing $668 million sector specific grant program, and the re-authorization of PPP, expanded tax credits, etc. authorized by Congress last week will provide much needed relief for our battered industry.
This language authorizes that grants may be used for capital projects or equipment purchases necessary to uphold necessary public health and social distancing protocols, employee payroll and benefit costs, mortgage interest, rent, utilities and interest on other debt obligations; The executive office shall prioritize independently owned and operated restaurants in the issuance of this grant.
Technical modification to the definition of a wait staff employee in the Massachusetts Tip Law
This technical change which has long been pursued by the MRA will simply permit an employee to work as a wait staff employee and participate in a tip pool on days the employee has no managerial responsibility. The employee would not be prohibited from having managerial duties on other days. Further. this language clarifies the actions of those employees working in a quick service counter location as a team.
The modified definition of a wait staff employee is as follows:
"Wait staff employee", a person, including a waiter, waitress, bus person, person in a quick service restaurant who prepares or serves food or beverages as part of a team of counter staff or any other counter employee who: (i) serves beverages or prepared food directly to patrons or who clears patrons' tables; (ii) works in a restaurant, banquet facility or other place where prepared food or beverages are served; and (iii) has no managerial responsibility during a day in which the person serves beverages or prepared food or clears patrons' tables.
Unemployment Rate Schedule Freeze
Legislation was filed by Governor Baker to freeze a previously enacted change increase in the UI benefits schedule. Without a freeze, certain businesses will be subject to a possible 60% increase in the second quarter of 2021. While this legislation didn't quite get over the goal line, there appears to be support for this language as one of the first acts of the new legislative session which begins today.