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New York’s Restaurant Industry Trying To Hold On Amid More COVID Shutdowns

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy holds up an emergency order he signed Monday capping the fee that third-party apps can charge to deliver food in the county at 15%.
Dave Lucas
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy holds up an emergency order he signed Monday capping the fee that third-party apps can charge to deliver food in the county at 15%.

Some relief is on the way for Albany County restaurants struggling to survive the pandemic.

Albany area state Assemblywoman Pat Fahy recently introduced a bill to cap the fees third-party delivery services like DoorDash and GrubHub charge restaurants for delivery services.

“We’ve been trying to draw attention to the plate and really encouraging more customers to do takeout to sit outdoors and what have you. We've also been urging Congress to pass the Restaurants Act as part of this next stimulus package to help the small, independent restaurants. But then I've also raised the question of why shut down the New York City restaurants where we've already lost tens of thousands of employees. Why shut them down? If at this point, they're only showing infection rates of 1.4%? So I think that, I know we're at a very precarious time with infection rates going up. But we really have to be mindful of the fact that this industry is being, this this entire sector is being devastated.”

Inspired by Fahy's bill, with one eye on the ticking clock and the other on helping area restaurants, fellow-Democrat Albany County Executive Dan McCoy on Monday signed an emergency order capping the fee that third-party apps can charge to deliver food in the county at 15 percent.

“You're telling people to stay home, don't go out if it’s not necessary, which is true. Well, then, you know, then you're saying us go to local businesses or restaurants. Look, if you just see what happened in New York City, our restaurants are not going to survive, just like arts and music venues aren't going to survive if we don't do something. And we need action now, not later. And, you know, I do want to say one of the things I know that Assemblymember Pat Fahy and John McDonald were talking about this early on, but we were watching - what can we do? What can we do to help these restaurants; especially they closed down and they have to go to orders and one of the biggest things we continue seeing and they see through the media outlet is the price gouging that third parties used to have food delivered to their houses.”

McCoy says any third party engaging price gouging will be held accountable.

We're encouraging people to use, you know, GrubHub and all the different organizations out there to get food delivered to support local restaurants. And what better way can we do this by capping it at 15%. So this will take effect this Friday, and it will be renewed every five days until Chairman Joyce has it signed officially into law here in Albany County. But I want to say places have already done this New York City, Seattle, and most recently, Syracuse and Onondaga County have done the same thing. So it's something that we need in place. I was hoping the Senate and Assembly was going to do it. But if we truly, truly want to support small businesses, and restaurants, we need to do this. They're struggling. They're having a tough time and we need to give them the relief that they need.”

McCoy worries that some eateries may not survive the winter, especially with cuts to indoor dining capacities. Discover Albany President and CEO Jill Delaney says McCoy's emergency order comes at the right time.

“When you tell restaurants that they can only have 50% capacity or worse, you know, as we're looking at potentially a further reduction or temporary closure, mandated by the government, how many times can a restaurant, a small independent restaurant, go through that and still come back? You know, you've got so many people impacted by this. Not only the, the staff who work there, but the distributors who are supplying things to them. The neighborhoods that you know, the residents really rely on knowing that they've got great restaurants there.”

Albany County Legislative Chair Andrew Joyce:

“The issue has gotten accelerated and amplified across the state. So we talked with the county executive’s office and we worked up this plan to do a bit of a one two punch on this issue. The county executive signs this executive order today, goes in effect on Friday, and what our legislation is going to do is going to provide these small businesses, these restaurants the means to do to seek enforcement and to get restitution if necessary.”

Joyce says the legislation, which is expected to be introduced this month, will allow businesses to seek relief and enforcement if the delivery companies fail to comply with the Executive Order.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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