Post-Pandemic and the Shape of the New Normal
The pandemic ushered in a sea change in municipal operations. Although the declared state of emergency has ended, some of the changes have been extended. Ch. 20 of the Acts of 2021, signed and effective June 16, 2021, includes sunset provisions for many of the extended changes but, if they remain popular, we may see further legislation that makes the changes permanent.
For municipal operations, board and committee meetings may continue to be held remotely until April 1, 2022. A quorum of the board or committee need not be physically present and a party entitled to appear may appear remotely. Remote access by the public must be available for free unless it is not feasible because of economic hardship. If that is the case, the municipality may post a transcript of the meeting. In addition, Towns may still adjust downward the quorum for a Town Meeting occurring up to December 15, 2021, and representative Town Meetings up to that date may be held remotely if the meeting cannot safely be held in person.
As for businesses and Local Licensing Authorities (LLAs), a dining establishment with alcohol service may be granted either a new license for an expansion of outdoor table service or an extension of the approval granted during the state of emergency. LLAs may grant approval to a change in the description of the licensed premises without further review or approval by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC). The LLAs need only provide notice of approval to the ABCC. These provisions expire on April 1, 2022. Takeout beer, wine, and cocktails may be sold until May 1, 2022, so long as the price is the same as charged for on-premises consumption.