The council capped commission fees that food delivery services charge restaurants at 15 percent of the meal cost.
As in much of the country, D.C. restaurants cannot serve customers on premises and are limited to offering delivery and carryout. The commission cap, similar to ones implemented in Seattle and San Francisco, is meant to help eateries turn profits on those sales.
“What we are finding is the third-party delivery services are charging commissions that wipe out any profit that the restaurant would receive from that order,” D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said Monday.
In a letter to Mendelson, delivery services including Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub and Postmates said a cap would force them to “radically alter” their businesses.
“This would result in making food delivery more expensive — putting it out of reach for all but the city’s most prosperous residents — and significantly reducing restaurant revenue and earning opportunities for thousands of residents,” the companies wrote in a letter first reported by Washington City Paper.
The legislation also has a host of provisions to help tenants pay bills.
Landlords would be required to allow residential and commercial tenants facing financial hardship because of the novel coronavirus to pay missed rent in monthly installments.
Residents would also be able to have payment plans for water bills under the legislation.
Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) said she wanted similar provisions for all utilities and would work to insert language in future relief bills to ensure that tenants avoid large lump sums to pay outstanding bills.
The bill also extends a moratorium on evictions to prohibit landlords from initiating such proceedings in court.
It requires landlords who charge amenity fees to offer prorated refunds for amenities no longer offered, such as apartment gyms. But it does not require reductions if amenities are included in monthly rent.
The council passed separate emergency legislation Tuesday imposing a moratorium on foreclosures for owner-occupied residences until 60 days after the public health emergency ends.
“We cannot abandon hard-working homeowners during this time of uncertainty,” said council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1), who introduced the bill working with the Legal Aid Society of D.C.
D.C. lawmakers were not able to find agreement on the more contentious issue of business interruption insurance.
Insurers have been denying claims filed by companies trying to recoup losses from orders closing nonessential businesses. Insurance companies say their policies are not meant to cover virus outbreaks and pandemics.
Lawmakers in at least seven states have introduced legislation to compel the insurers to pay out claims. The District would have been the first entity to enact such a policy.
But the language was dropped from the final relief bill after lawmakers raised concerns about whether it was legal and the inevitable court fight.
“It might have the perverse effect of doing harm both with the costs of insurance and sending a false sense of hope to a community,” said council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5). “It’s going to be bogged down in litigation for years, and if any relief comes, it won’t be during this pandemic.”
The American Property Casualty Insurance Association said the legislation would have forced insurers to cover losses ranging from $300 million to $1.1 billion for D.C. businesses that pay about $16 million a month in premiums.
David Sampson, the insurance association’s president, said pandemics are “uninsurable.”
“When you buy car insurance, the auto insurer understands that not everyone who buys auto insurance is going to have an accident in the same period of time,” said Sampson. “Pandemics by their very definition are global in nature. That means they hit all over the world at the same time.”
Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who pushed the business interruption insurance language, said lawmakers were too quick to accept the insurance industry’s claims.
“When it comes to whose side are we on, we want to fight for local businesses,” Allen said.
The bill also changes ballot access rules for the November general election, which features one of the first open council seats in years, with council member David Grosso (I-At Large) not seeking reelection.
Normally, citywide candidates would need to collect roughly 3,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The emergency bill would instead allow them to qualify by having 250 registered voters submit forms from the D.C. Board of Elections website. Mendelson said the city does not have the technology to allow candidates to collect signatures online or on a mobile app.
The bills are set to take effect immediately when signed by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D).