ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Restaurants are still struggling under strict COVID-19 restrictions, leaving many on the brink of bankruptcy. A state senator from Rochester is attempting to help, introducing a bill that would help restaurants keep more of their profits when using third-party delivery services.
Hospitality employees like Lakeyva Catala have been out of work for weeks, some months.
“My finances have tanked,” Catala said. “Unemployment is not enough to pay my bills. I want our government agencies to help us find a safe, responsible way for us to be open and be able to make money again.”
Small business like the Swan Family Restaurants are turning to delivery applications, hoping to make enough to keep the lights on.
“When that’s your only source of income, basically the competing market place is online delivery platforms, there’s no competing,” John Swan said. “Every sale you make is a loss. So that’s really difficult.”
While using a food service delivery application like Grubhub or Uber Eats is convenient and maintains social distancing, there are hidden fees between the app and restaurant owners when you place your order.
New legislation is being introduced to help business with this. The bill would limit fees that third-party applications can charge for delivery and marketing to 20%, and it would prevent apps from listing menus without a restaurant’s permission.
The bill is co-sponsored by State Senator Jeremy Cooney (Rochester-SD56).
“The margins are so thin already so we want to make sure that we are standing up and supporting our rest who are just trying to navigate during this difficult time,” Cooney said.
“Our restaurant scene is not healthy,” said Kelly Metras, owner of Nox and Salena’s, and president of the Rochester chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association. “The orange zone put us on the brink of collapse and though we’ve been open for the last couple of days… it might be to little to late.”
The bill has been introduced in the state senate and referred to the Consumer Protection Committee.
Early January 2021, the State Supreme Court ruled some restaurants in Erie County’s orange zone could operate under yellow zone rules. This pushed Governor Andrew Cuomo to allow all restaurants in New York state to operate under yellow zone restrictions, regardless of what zone they fall into, but the Governor is reviewing this change.
Kumiki Gibson, Counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement Thursday:
“We are reviewing the decision. While that process is ongoing, to ensure uniformity and fairness, all restaurants operating in orange zones can now operate under rules governing yellow zones. We disagree with the court’s decision and its impact on public health as Federal CDC data clearly demonstrates indoor dining increases COVID-19 spread.”
Senator Cooney and Metras are advocating for the Supreme Court ruling to be made permanent for all restaurants throughout the state.