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City Council weighs putting a cap on delivery service fees charged Lincoln restaurants
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City Council weighs putting a cap on delivery service fees charged Lincoln restaurants

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DoorDash

Derek Johnson, who delivers for DoorDash, leaves the downtown Qdoba with a customer's order March 27.

Restaurants and bars in Nebraska are finding new ways to reach their customers amid social distancing. 

Lincoln City Councilwoman Tammy Ward, seeking to throw local restaurants another pandemic lifeline, proposed an ordinance to cap the fee a food delivery service can charge a restaurant to shuttle takeout to hungry homebodies. 

Third-party companies such as DoorDash or UberEats could not charge restaurants more than 15% of the purchase price to deliver orders under the ordinance, which Ward crafted to mirror one passed in Chicago.

The ordinance would only apply while the city's pandemic emergency lasts, said Ward, who has introduced other measures to help restaurants financially during the pandemic.

Brian Kitten, owner of Brewsky's, called on the council last year to follow Chicago's course to help out restaurants such as his that relied heavily on the delivery services when restaurants couldn't offer dine-in service. 

"We were completely shut down, and we're just trying to figure out how to get dollars in the door," Kitten said during a public hearing at Monday's council meeting. 

Delivery services charged Brewsky's restaurants a 30% fee based on orders, and he said he couldn't afford to properly deliver his own orders because programming an order service and insuring drivers ate further into an already tight budget. 

"For Lincoln restaurants, we cannot pass this soon enough," Ward said, adding that her effort to get it before the council was delayed by the holidays and last week's historic snowstorm. 

The ordinance would also ban third-party delivery companies from charging customers a higher price for items than listed on the restaurant menu.

Councilman Roy Christensen asked Ward whether she met with delivery service providers in crafting her ordinance. Ward said she had met with representatives of Uber, a ride-share company that does food delivery, and they agreed with the proposed ordinance.

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Christensen took issue with inserting the city into a private agreement between restaurants and delivery services, and he questioned whether that cost might be passed on to customers. 

In response to Chicago's law, DoorDash implemented a $1.50 Chicago fee charged to customers there, the Chicago Tribune reported in December.

Christensen wondered how the ordinance would affect the contracts between delivery services and restaurants and if the city would face a legal fight. Chief Assistant City Attorney Chris Connolly said he believed the city could withstand challenges. 

Several council members, including Christensen, questioned tying the ordinance to the pandemic emergency declaration because it could last several years as a way to be eligible for federal funding.

The council will vote on the ordinance next week.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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