State Sen. Susan Deschambault

State Sen. Susan Deschambault

BIDDEFORD — A bill sponsored by State Sen. Susan Deschambault of Biddeford intended to boost the restaurant industry statewide has been granted initial approval by the Maine Senate.

Deschambault, a Democrat who represents District 32 including Biddeford, Alfred, Arundel, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman, introduced the bill last fall after she said that a constituent brought to her attention how restaurants are impacted in the warmer months because of an inability to serve alcohol to customers seated in outside spaces that are non-contiguous with the restaurant itself.

Her legislation would allow restaurants to expand and sell alcohol to customers in non-contiguous spaces by having muncipalities approve extending the definition of restaurant premises and expanding their capacity by adding serving sections that aren’t directly connected to the restaurant itself.

“Everyone wants to be outside during Maine’s beautiful summer months, including our restaurants,” Deschambault said. “I am excited about what this legislation means for our restaurants that want to serve food and drink in outdoor locations near, but not directly attached to their brick-and-mortar location.”

Under the auspices of curent state law, limitations prohibit the serving of alcohol from a restaurant to seating in a non-contiguous spaces that is separated by public property.  

Restaurant servers cannot carry alcohol from an establishment to tables outside the business if they are separated by a public sidewalk and Deschambault’s bill, LD 1738, would give cities and towns across Maine the option of amending this law.

Provisions of the bill specify that if a town or city says OK, restaurants could put tables in parking spots in front of the restaurant, even if a sidewalk separates those parking spots from the restaurant, and waiters would be allowed to carry alcohol across that public sidewalk to diners at those tables.

Deschambault said that Maine’s restaurant industry is deeply affected by the state’s seasonal economy, with high-demand summer months balancing out lower demands of winter.

She said her bill will give restaurants with outdoor spaces and patios the ability to recruit and hire more staff and to serve more customers during the height of their busiest season of the year.

“This legislation has significant economic implications for our communities and I am glad my colleagues in the Senate have joined me in support of this bill,” Deschambault said.

The bill now faces further scrutiny in the Maine House and Maine Senate before a final vote and then being sent to Gov. Paul LePage for his signature and enactment.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at [email protected]

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