Indoor dining is back in Orange County but restaurants have been forced to adapt to government restrictions for the coronavirus pandemic for a year.
Many eateries have turned to third party food delivery services like Uber Eats or DoorDash to stay in business. The apps are charging businesses fees that can exceed 30% of the cost of the orders they transport.
Buena Park decided to cap those fees last month and so have other municipalities in the state, including Palm Springs and San Francisco.
Huntington Beach City Council considered taking similar action at its Monday meeting but ultimately chose not to. Elected officials voted 4-3 against an ordinance to temporarily cap delivery fees at 15% for restaurants while limiting non-delivery fees for customers at 5%.
Huntington Beach Council members Mike Posey, Erik Peterson, Barbara Delgleize and Tito Ortiz voted against the ordinance.
“We shouldn’t be restricting a business at all. We should be opening businesses and letting everyone succeed,” Peterson said.
Posey said the best way to support local restaurants is to be a patron, pick up the food yourself and leave a generous tip.
“The government shouldn’t be involved in modifying contracts or setting prices, whether it’s an emergency or a perceived monopoly,” he said.
Amory Hanson, who identified himself as a 2022 City Council candidate and member of the city’s historic resources board, spoke in favor of the ordinance.
“Even though the pandemic is near completion, oppressive restrictions on restaurant capacity continue to be implemented. I do not believe it is fair to our local restaurateurs that they must suffer economically because of a company based in Palo Alto’s dominance,” Hanson said.
A DoorDash representative called into the meeting to voice concerns over the ordinance which he said was intended to “meddle with the marketplace.”
“There is no doubt that COVID-19 has left restaurants struggling. DoorDash is proud to say that restaurants on our platform have been eight times more likely to remain in business over the past year,” he said.
The representative added that restaurants are also starting to reopen again.
Councilwoman Natalie Moser first proposed the ordinance at the council’s Feb. 1 meeting.
Moser defended capping delivery app fees at Monday’s meeting.
“Federal aid, coupled with this fee cap, coupled with our grant program will help provide our local businesses with a step out of a very deep, deep pit and hopefully, one more lifeline,” Moser said. “If you drive around now you see restaurants that used to be there that are no longer there.”
She added that even if Orange County is moving toward less restrictive tiers and restaurants can reopen, their capacity is still capped.
Councilman Dan Kalmick also spoke in favor of capping fees arguing that in a way it was government restrictions that caused restaurants to turn to delivery service apps. The cap would only be temporary, he added.
“I think that while doing this does put our finger on the scale a bit, I think it puts our finger on the scale for our local businesses here and not big Silicon Valley tech bros in their big ivory towers.”Councilman Dan Kalmick
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.