NYC Curfew Causes Chaos for Restaurant and Food Delivery Workers

Confusion and concern are swirling among local legislators and restaurant industry representatives about New York’s emergency curfew order as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office releases information in a patchwork fashion. Though the office issued guidelines three hours before the curfew went into effect on Monday, it did not seem to get into the hands of restaurant representatives or local legislators — leading to questions about enforcement, particularly as it relates to undocumented workers being asked to present identification to the increased police force in the city.

City Council member Mark Treyger, who represents several neighborhoods in South Brooklyn, says he heard from delivery workers who drop off goods to bakeries in the neighborhood, who were caught off guard. Many work late at night or in the early hours of the morning and were unsure whether they would still be allowed to make deliveries today, Treyger says.

“Many of our workers come from diverse communities and they are fearful of being stopped by police right now,” Treyger says. “They are afraid of being asked for paperwork that endangers them and their well being.”

The curfew, a response to property damage and looting amid protests against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, was announced just hours before it went into effect on Monday.

Critics argue that curfews tend to disproportionately impact communities of color, with more enforcement exacerbating tensions with police. People of color and undocumented immigrants also make up a large portion of the restaurant industry workforce, and as many restaurants reopen for takeout and delivery, many are returning to work and commuting.

But those looking for guidance on how to follow the rules struggled to receive accurate and clear information.

The initial announcement did not mention which industries would be allowed to operate during the lockdown. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office later provided the New York Times with a list of exempt essential workers, but that too did not provide any clarity for restaurant workers, leaving those in the industry scrambling to figure out the new guidelines.

On Tuesday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the curfew has been extended through the end of this week in New York, and runs from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Jeffrey Garcia, a restaurant owner in the Bronx and the president of the New York State Latino Restaurant and Bar Association, said that he initially saw the official order from the mayor’s office and took it to mean that no one except essential personnel like hospital workers should be out past curfew.

Mohamed Attia, the head of the Street Vendor Project — which represents thousands of street vendors in the city — says he was initially unsure whether street vendors could continue working because he had received no guidance from the city. Many vendors often work past 8 p.m. and sometimes have to leave early in the morning to get started for the day. Attia says he only received clarity from the mayor’s office Tuesday afternoon that street vendors were designated essential workers.

On Tuesday afternoon, the mayor’s office provided Eater with a document going into more detail about the curfew regulations. The document states that “there are no specific requirements for ID” for essential workers, and lists a work ID, a business card, or a work uniform as appropriate forms of identification.

The resulting confusion meant that on Monday night, delivery workers were particularly confused, Treyger says.

“The fact that city food delivery workers who work overnight to restock shelves are messaging me frantically right now not sure if they can work tonight with the abruptly announced city curfew tells you a lot about the state of government right now,” Treyger wrote in a tweet on Monday.

Some transit options for delivery workers have also been nixed by the emergency order, posing an additional challenge. Both scooter company Revel and bicycle transit system Citi Bike shut down services for the duration of the curfew on Monday night, Streetsblog NYC reports. Revel has been offering its scooters free of charge to restaurants to make deliveries amid the pandemic, and Citi Bike has been giving out free monthly transportation passes to essential workers in the city.

Alex Blum, the co-founder of NYC-based delivery logistics company Relay, which works with contractors to provide delivery services to over 1,000 restaurants in NYC and Philadelphia, said that the company has not received any further guidance from the city on the curfew. The company itself is taking extra measures to help couriers with identification if they are working during the curfew.

“We are setting up a message in our app explaining to the reader that the user of the app is a food delivery courier, that they are exempt from the curfew, and are providing an email they can reach out to if they have any questions,” Blum says, referring to workers potentially being stopped on their routes.

Similar scenes of confusion are taking place on the West Coast as well. In Los Angeles, where a curfew has been in effect since Saturday, restaurant staffers describe confusing, chaotic work shifts. A delivery driver for Pizza Hut told Eater LA that their store got slammed with delivery orders after the curfew was announced, and store management did not provide clear communication about the curfew or indicate that the shop would be closing early to let workers travel safely home.

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