Rapid grocery delivery apps like Gorillas, Gopuff and Gettir, which quickly expanded their footprint across Manhattan and Brooklyn, will face a new crackdown on their so-called ‘dark stores’— distribution points that are typically off limits to customers— under a new package of bills introduced by an Upper East Side lawmaker on Thursday.
“As a former small business owner and former commissioner of the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, I personally understand the difficulties that so many business owners face,” said Council Member Julie Menin
“Today, we stand here to send a message that this emerging industry will not operate in a lawless atmosphere unregulated.”
On the steps of City Hall Thursday morning, Menin— who represents the Upper East Side— and Council Member Christopher Marte unveiled three pieces of legislation set to reign in the new industry and improve working conditions for delivery workers.
The first bill, introduced by Menin, would put the ‘dark stores’ or ‘micro-fulfillment centers’ under the watch of the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection— requiring the companies to register their locations and giving the agency the ability to issue and revoke licenses as well as issue violations and penalties for things like engaging in misleading advertising or deceptive trade practices.
“Small business owners shouldn’t be struggling by competing for customers by operating micro-fulfillment centers that essentially operate as warehouses without any regulation,” added Menin, who serves as Chair of the City Council Small Business Committee.
In April, Gopuff converted its Upper East Side ‘dark store,’ located at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 90th Street in Carnegie Hill, into a retail storefront that looks like any other.
However, the public-facing store occupies just a fraction of the more than six-thousand square foot space— leaving much of the location— and hundreds of products listed in the app— off limits to customers inside the physical store.
Last February, Menin blasted Gopuff, accusing the company of ‘unsafe and hazardous’ business practices, citing complaints from Upper East Siders about delivery workers on motorized bikes and scooters.
Gorillas’ Upper East Side distribution point, sitting at the corner of East 93rd Street and Second Avenue, is also not available for in-person shopping.
Part of the legislative package includes two bills from Council Member Marte, who represents lower Manhattan, that aim to improve working conditions and safety for the delivery workers employed by the apps.
One measure would force the companies to disclose to customers that fifteen minute delivery times are not guaranteed and restrict retaliation against workers who don’t meet tight deadlines — in an effort reduce the pressure placed on delivery workers to operate at unsafe speeds.
The other bill would limit on how much weight a single person could be required to deliver to a customer, capping it at 22 pounds.
“Getir welcomes regulations around the protection of delivery riders and microfulfillment centers,” the company said a statement.
“We look forward to continuing to work with policymakers to ensure all our stores are not only in line with local ordinances, but also an integral part of the communities we serve.”
A Gopuff spokesperson said “we look forward to continuing to work with the City Council and the Adams Administration as we continue to grow and innovate to meet the needs of every community we serve.”
Finally, Gorillas told Upper East Site that it “looks forward to working with the council on a set of fair rules that continue to enable us to provide value to the lives of hundreds of thousands of everyday New Yorkers while expanding the market reach of dozens of local mom and pop brands.”