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City of Boston to allow permitted restaurants to sell groceries

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Economic Development

The City of Boston will allow permitted restaurants to sell grocery items via delivery, curbside pickup, and takeout by waiving the required Retail Food Permit for the sale of uncooked foods.

Building on his support of small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the City of Boston will allow permitted restaurants to sell grocery items via delivery, curbside pickup, and takeout by waiving the required Retail Food Permit for the sale of uncooked foods. The new temporary policy and guidance formed by the Mayor's Office of Economic Development, the Inspectional Services Department, and the Licensing Board for the City of Boston will improve access to food and essential items for residents, and help ensure social distancing guidelines continue to be upheld.

"This is an unprecedented time for all of us in the City of Boston, and our administration is prioritizing how best to keep our residents safe and healthy, while also supporting our businesses and some of our City's most vulnerable residents," said Mayor Walsh. "By allowing restaurants to also sell grocery and other essential items, we can help address social distancing concerns in grocery stores while supporting restaurants and food businesses during these unprecedented times."

Restaurants interested in selling groceries must follow procedures as outlined by the Inspectional Services Department, including making product information available pertaining to safe handling instructions, a statement of identity, an ingredient statement, the name and place of business of the food manufacturer, packer, or distributor, net quantity of contents, and allergen information required by the Food Allergen Labeling & Consumer Protection Act. These guidelines are concurrent with FDA temporary policy regarding labeling and packaging during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  

In addition, businesses must submit an operational plan to the Boston Licensing Board detailing plans of implementing safe handling procedures and how they will comply with guidance from ISD. The Licensing Board will review each plan and issue correspondence allowing the sale of grocery items by the Licensee on a temporary basis given the COVID-19 health emergency. Restaurants are not permitted to sell grocery items before receiving approval from the Boston Licensing Board. 

As business owners, employers, and employees navigate an evolving COVID-19-related assistance landscape, the Economic Development Office has created a Financial Relief Handbook and FAQ document, both of which are continuously updated. Small Business conference calls will continue every Tuesday at 3pm to communicate policy updates, answer questions, feature relevant City of Boston departments, and troubleshoot the ecosystem of funding available from the state, federal, and private industry. 

The City of Boston has created a number of useful guides and resources for restaurants and food businesses impacted by COVID-19 and the Commonwealth's Non-Essential Services and 'Stay At Home' Order

  • Open Businesses in Boston: a tool for essential businesses to publicly share that they're open, share gift-card information, and which (if any) delivery/take-out services they use. This guide is available for residents to utilize, and explore what local businesses are open in their neighborhoods. 
  • Support Boston Restaurants: a web page for restaurants to publicly share that they're open, share gift-card information, and which (if any) delivery/take-out services they use. This guide is available for residents to utilize, and explore what local businesses are open in their neighborhoods. 
  • Takeout and Delivery Guidebook: a guide on how to establish food takeout and delivery services now that the City of Boston has lifted licensing regulations. 

The above resources and more industry-specific guidance are accessible on boston.gov/small-business. Questions to ISD's Health Department can be sent to ISDHealth@boston.gov or call 617-635-5326. For all City of Boston updates related to COVID-19, please visit boston.gov/coronavirus