The Senate unanimously voted for final passage Wednesday of a bill extending by 13 months the right of restaurants to offer outdoor dining, as initially authorized by one of the Gov. Ned Lamont’s orders during the COVID-19 emergency.
Anything that undermines local zoning authority can be problematic in the legislature, but lawmakers in both parties said the consensus was to give the hospitality industry at least another season of outdoor dining as a legal right.
Sen. Norm Needleman, a Democrat who also serves as the first selectman of Essex, said he was voting for passage after consulting with local land-use offices in his community and district.
“They all do understand that the greater good here is to try to let these guys recover,” Needleman said.
With every Democrat and a majority of Republicans in support, the House passed the measure, House Bill 5271, last week on a vote of 121-21.
A year ago, the legislature enshrined the basics of the order in a temporary state law, a gesture to a restaurant industry that was hard hit by the pandemic and identified outdoor dining as vital to keeping many eateries viable.
Without the new law, the right to outdoor dining would expire on March 31. The governor’s signature is certain.
The extension was supported by the two associations that represent municipalities, the Connecticut Council of Small Towns and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and sought by the restaurant industry.
Scott Dolch, the president of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, applauded the bipartisan passage of what he called “a timely and much-needed measure that will help Connecticut’s restaurant industry as it continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”