Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday touted $500,000 the city’s getting from restaurant delivery company DoorDash to winterize Chicago restaurants, while proposals by aldermen to further crack down on such apps during the coronavirus pandemic languish in City Council committees.
In announcing the grant from the delivery company to help restaurants prepare for winter, Lightfoot thanked DoorDash “for investing in Chicago and its restaurants to assist them in continuing to serve Chicagoans this winter.”
Third-party apps such as DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats that charge additional fees to restaurants to deliver meals have drawn increasing scrutiny from elected officials since the virus outbreak began, as diners skittish about eating inside restaurants have been ordering more to-go meals, fueling a boom for the companies.
During a May City Council committee hearing, struggling restaurateurs said the companies charge 30% or more to deliver food, and sometimes set up their own websites masquerading as those of the restaurants themselves.
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Northwest Side Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, introduced an ordinance to cap fees at 5% of the cost of the meal, but it got shunted to the City Council Rules Committee, where ideas the mayor opposes often get sent to die.
And while the council did adopt Lightfoot-backed rules requiring delivery apps to itemize the fees they charge, stricter bench marks backed by downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, have gone nowhere.
Reilly on Thursday said if the city wanted to really throw a lifeline to struggling restaurants, it would adopt the tougher standards, and the companies would readily agree to abide by them.
“I’m happy to see DoorDash step up and support outdoor dining, but if they really want to help the restaurant industry, they should put their money where their mouth is and support this ordinance,” Reilly said. “The app companies should embrace this initiative if they’re really interested in providing relief to Chicago’s struggling restaurants.”
There’s precedent for a Chicago mayor drawing criticism for not taking a harder line with corporations. During his first term, Mayor Rahm Emanuel caught flak from food policy watchdogs after announcing he would include calorie information on pop machines in city buildings, at a time other mayors were pulling sugary soft drinks out of machines in their cities.
Emanuel also unveiled a competition between Chicago city workers and those in San Antonio to earn rewards from a $5 million national beverage lobbying group.
He later announced Coca-Cola would pay $3 million to fund exercise and nutrition programs through the Chicago Park District to try to fight obesity and diabetes, and touted an agreement with the soft drink giant to pay $2.59 million for 50,000 blue recycling carts for Chicago homes that included images of Coke products on the lids.
Emanuel also drew the ire of Chicago cabdrivers who said he favored ride-share companies such Uber — a company that his brother, Hollywood super agent Ari Emanuel, had an ownership stake in — over taxis in drawing up Chicago’s ride-share industry rules.
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