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Local businesses seek council action as delivery app costs cut into profits.

COURTESY PHOTO - Third-party delivery apps, like Grubhub, wont be able to charge high fees under an ordinance approved Wednesday, July 8, by Portlands City Council.Portland restaurants won't have to pay high delivery fees when someone orders food through popular apps like DoorDash or Grubhub.

City commissioners unanimously approved Wednesday morning, July 8, an ordinance to temporarily limit services like DoorDash, Grubhub, Caviar, Postmates and Uber Eats to a 10% charge for food deliveries. Dozens of local restaurants and business groups asked the city to make the change because sometimes high delivery charges were eating into their profits.

Portland joins Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York City with similar limitations. Most of the cities limited food delivery fees to 15%. New York limits it to 20%. Chicago is considering a 5% limit.

Dozens of local restaurants hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown asked the council to approve the ordinance. The Portland Independent Restaurant Alliance and the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon urged the city to take action because restaurants that provided delivery through DoorDash, Grubhub, Caviar, Postmates or Uber Eats were charged large fees, cutting into their profits. More than 100 members of the alliance have signed an online petition asking the council for the limit.

Food delivery services operating in Portland, like DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates and Uber Eats, account for about 80% of the local delivery market. Toney Anaya, DoorDash's head of government relations, urged Portland officials to drop the proposed limitation.

Portland's Rebecca Cordia, who delivers food for DoorDash, warned the council that limiting fees could hurt others like her. "I feel like I have contributed to the community," she told the council. "Like many other people, I need this income to make ends meet. Any kind of law like this one would hurt delivery workers like me. It would actually do more harm than good."

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who drafted the ordinance, said the change included provisions to avoid hurting people who deliver food for the services. The ordinance takes effect immediately and limits delivery fees for at least 90 days past the end of the city's COVID-19 emergency declaration. Companies could be fined $500 for violating the rules.

'Anything but usual'

Restaurants across the state have been closed to in-person dining since mid-March because of Gov. Kate Brown's COVID-19 pandemic emergency order. Many have started to slowly reopen under strict social-distancing guidelines. Some of the restaurants survived during the shutdown by providing curbside pickup or food deliveries.

APANO's Jenni Lee told the council during Wednesday morning's public hearing that high delivery fees, sometimes 20% to 30%, were hurting the city's family-owned restaurants who "have little power to negotiate with delivery companies."

Katy Connors with the Portland Independent Restaurant Alliance, told the council that about 85 percent of local restaurants "may not survive this pandemic." Most restaurant sales in Multnomah County have been down an average of 77% from 2019 because of the pandemic shutdown, she told the council.

"Right now every sale counts," Connors said. "To the big, delivery companies this is business as usual. We are fighting in favor of this ordinance because this environment is anything but usual."

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